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Austin mayoral race: Kirk Watson, Celia Israel to face off again in runoff

Neither Watson nor Israel secured more than 50% of the vote in the November election, forcing a December runoff.

AUSTIN, Texas — We still don’t know who Austin’s next mayor will be.

None of the six candidates vying for the city’s top job received more than 50% so of the vote, forcing a runoff election between the top contenders. Former Austin mayor and state senator Kirk Watson and State Rep. Celia Israel will face each other once again on Dec. 13.

Candidates Jennifer Virden, Phil Brual, Gary Spellman and Anthony Bradshaw did not receive enough votes to participate in the runoff.


Who is Kirk Watson?

Kirk Watson previously served as mayor of Austin from 1997 until 2001. In 2002, he ran for Texas attorney general and lost to Greg Abbott.

Watson spent 13 years in the Texas Senate, to which he was elected from 2007 to 2020 before he retired to become the first dean of the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs. He announced he would make his return to politics and again run for mayor of Austin in February of this year.

Watson graduated from Baylor University and ranked first in his class at Baylor Law School, according to his campaign website.

On his site, Watson says that his experience leading Austin for just over four years, in addition to his time in the Texas Legislature, proves that he is “successful in getting things done and creating transformational change.” His main priorities include the city’s rising cost of living, homelessness, systemic racism and transportation.

Who is Celia Israel?

According to her campaign website, Celia Israel has been an Austinite since 1982. She graduated from the University of Texas and served former Gov. Ann Richards’ administration before becoming a Realtor. She later became a member of the Texas House of Representatives, where she has represented the Austin area since 2014.

Israel first said she was considering a run for Austin mayor in September 2021, but she made her official campaign announcement in January of this year.

On her website, Israel pledges to be a “mayor for ALL of Austin” and says that the city “deserves a mayor who works for the people who live here and who build the city around us: our teachers, construction workers, students, public service workers, artists, musicians, technologists, developers and so many more.” Her main issues including addressing the city’s affordability, mobility and public safety challenges, as well as prioritizing reproductive rights and sexual health.

Due to her mayoral campaign, Israel did not run for reelection for Texas House District 50. Republican Victor Johnson and Democratic State Rep. James Talarico, who previously represented House District 52, are now vying for the District 50 seat.

Early voting for the runoff will run from Thursday, Dec. 1 through Friday, Dec. 9. Election Day will be Tuesday, Dec. 13.

To hear more from the candidates, watch our Austin Mayoral Debate.

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Britny Eubank on social media: Twitter


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