Two Democratic heavyweights advanced to a runoff election to lead Austin as the state capital grapples with rapid population growth, skyrocketing living costs and rising homelessness.
With all precincts reporting, state Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin, finished first in a crowded field, followed by former state Sen. Kirk Watson. Jennifer Virden, a real estate broker, was in third place. They were all shy of earning the majority of votes needed to secure a victory.
Israel and Watson will meet in the runoff election on Dec. 13.
Six candidates were on the ballot to succeed Austin Mayor Steve Adler, who has to leave office because of term limits.
Watson and Israel are Democrats, though the mayor’s seat is technically nonpartisan. Watson served as the city’s mayor from 1997 to 2001.
Austin’s housing affordability crisis has taken center stage in the race after the city’s already-rising housing costs were supercharged during the pandemic. During that time, new residents flocked to the city from more expensive parts of the country and millennials and so-called institutional investors entered the home-buying market in full force.
Watson and Israel both put out proposals for how to tackle the city’s housing crunch. Watson wants to overhaul the city’s development review process and allow construction of taller mixed-use developments to create more housing units. Israel has proposed using city-owned land to build housing and reducing the city’s parking requirements for new residential developments, which would allow room for more housing units.
Watson raised nearly $358,000 since July and spent more than $1 million, while Israel raised nearly $156,000 and spent about $288,000.
Disclosure: Steve Adler, a former Texas Tribune board chair, has been financial supporter of the Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.