Rep. Celia Israel considers run for Austin mayor, won’t seek reelection for House seat

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The race for Austin’s next mayor could include a current Democratic state representative.

Rep. Celia Israel announced Wednesday morning that she’s forming an exploratory committee to run for Austin’s top elected position. She also said she will not seek reelection for her Texas House seat to focus on this effort.

“From the pandemic to the legislative attacks on women, communities of color, and trans kids, I know I’m not the only one who has reflected on how we can best use our talents to meet the demands of these challenging times,” Israel said in a statement. “And in an increasingly urbanized Texas, local government may seem messy and unglamorous, but it’s where neighbors are actively coming together to solve problems.”

Israel currently represents Texas House District 50, which stretches from north Austin to Pflugerville and further east close to Elgin. She won that seat in 2014. In her announcement Wednesday, Israel also pointed out she previously served the City of Austin as a member of the Environmental Board, the Police Monitor Board, a Bond Advisory Committee and the Robert Mueller Redevelopment Advisory Committee.

“From these voluntary positions to my committee work in the legislature, I’ve proven I’m not afraid of hard work nor the technical challenges and coalition-building it takes to keep a city moving,” she said.

It’s still too early to know who will be part of the candidates expected to jump into the city’s mayoral race. However, Kirk Watson, the former state senator and former Austin mayor, said in an email to supporters last week that he may run for the office again.

“It’s very early in this process. The election isn’t until November of 2022,” Watson’s email stated. “Under Austin city rules, people can’t even start legally raising money to run for mayor for a couple of months.  But, lots of people are asking me about it and telling me they’d like me to run.  So I wanted you to know I’m considering it.”

Jennifer Virden, a former Austin City Council candidate, is the only person to confirm so far she’s officially running for mayor. She also filed a lawsuit against the City of Austin alleging it’s unconstitutional to prevent her from fundraising before November. City ordinances prevent candidates in city general elections from accepting campaign donations until one year before election day.

Earlier this year, Israel joined other Texas House Democrats who left Austin and flew to Washington, D.C. as part of an effort to prevent Republicans from passing some of their legislative priorities, particularly an overhaul of the state’s election laws. The bill, however, ultimately passed during a second special legislative session. Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 1 into law during a ceremony on Sept. 7, and it’s already facing a number of lawsuits challenging the voting changes.

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