Dec 1, 2022 - News

Austin mayoral candidates head to runoff election

Photo illustration of Celia Israel, and Kirk Watson.

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photos: Israel campaign, Hutton Supancic/Getty Images for SXSW

Austin voters get a second chance, starting Thursday, to decide who leads our city.

Driving the news: Early voting runs through Dec. 9 in the runoff election for Austin mayor and several City Council seats.

  • Election Day is Dec. 13.

Catch up quick: In November, state Rep. Celia Israel upset Kirk Watson — the former Austin mayor and state senator, who has raised far more campaign cash — but failed to get over 50% of the votes.

Between the lines: Watson, who dominated in the suburbs and area west of MoPac, has played up progressive talking points to voters — while aiming to woo conservative voters who cast ballots for third-place finisher Jennifer Virden.

  • He has sent one mailer calling for enforcing public camping restrictions and fully staffing police — and touting endorsements by Austin's fire and EMS unions — and another about LGBTQ+ rights, racial justice, affordability and climate matters — highlighting endorsements by environmental groups and Democratic clubs.
  • Virden hasn't endorsed either candidate — but is encouraging her supporters to cast a ballot.

State of play: Israel, who carried much of East and Central Austin, benefited from endorsements by both the Austin Chronicle and the Austin American-Statesman.

  • That's key to winning votes among people drawn to the polls to cast ballots in more prominent state and federal races — and who may quickly search for voter guides as they stand in line.

Yes, but: Beto O'Rourke isn't on the ballot this time around.

What they're saying: "You're less likely to have uninformed voters show up for the runoff," Ed Espinoza, president of Progress Texas, a progressive political messaging nonprofit, tells Axios.

  • "You're dealing with an older, more educated electorate, a bit more in tune to the local issues that we deal with every day, in terms of housing and zoning."

Be smart: Find more information about polling locations here.

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