Apr 10, 2024 - News

Mayor Kirk Watson announces re-election bid

Photo illustration of Austin Mayor Kirk Watson with lines radiating from him.

Photo Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios. Photo: Hutton Supanci/Getty Images

Austin Mayor Kirk Watson made his bid for re-election official Wednesday.

Why it matters: Watson will put his centrist coalition to the test in a city that has become more progressive since his first turn running City Hall a quarter-century ago.

Driving the news: He'll face at least three opponents in the November election: former Council member Kathie Tovo; Carmen Llanes Pulido, executive director of Go Austin/Vamos Austin; and Doug Greco, the former executive director of Central Texas Interfaith.

What they're saying: "We've made great progress in a short time; now we need to build on our successes," Watson said in a statement. "With a full term, I'll keep working to ensure that City Hall consistently delivers what Austinites expect and deserve."

  • Watson said his key accomplishments in the past 15 months were the City Council's amendment of the land development code, his approach and investment in helping people experiencing homelessness, and the launch of Austin Infrastructure Academy to train skilled workers at Austin Community College.

The big picture: Watson narrowly won the mayoral post in 2022 over Celia Israel with an appeal to moderate Democrats and Republicans.

  • As someone long involved in Austin politics — he served as mayor in the late 1990s and later as a state senator — Watson has relatively high name recognition and has proven himself a prodigious fundraiser.

Between the lines: Watson, who ran on a platform of government getting things done, carries the strengths and weaknesses that come with having an incumbent's record.

The other side: "I'm astonished to read in a local blog that most of the City Council may endorse Kirk Watson," Tovo posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, this week. "I served with several of these Council Members, and I know they don't support the racial profiling of communities of color, so why would they endorse the person who invited DPS into this community, ushering in a program that led to those (predictable) results?"

Of note: If re-elected, Watson's term would run until 2029.

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