AUSTIN (KXAN) — “I’m disappointed in him and I think the voters deserve better.”
Those were the last words KXAN voters heard from the Austin mayoral candidates during last week’s mayoral runoff debate. They came from Rep. Celia Israel who said her opponent, Senator Kirk Watson, was spreading “negativity” as a part of his campaign.
The testy end has now taken to Twitter.
“I haven’t told you anything about my opponent and now it’s time to,” Watson said in a video posted to his campaign page the morning after the debate. Watson largely took aim at Rep. Celia Israel’s legislative record.
“As a state representative, she passed zero bills in the last legislative session,” he said.
According to the Texas Legislature Online portal, of the 25 bills Israel was the primary author on during the 2021 session, none made it to Governor Greg Abbott’s desk.
“She passed a number of her bills through alternate legislative vehicles not in her name, but through working well with other members–both Democrats and Republicans,” her campaign wrote. “In the last legislative session, she successfully passed legislative language from a number of her bills to address elections reform, technology efficiencies in government, and transportation safety.”
Comparing legislative data
The data shows during Watson’s time in the Texas Senate, he was the primary author of 731 regular session bills. Of those, 178 of them landed on the governor’s desk. That’s 24%. He participated in seven regular sessions from 2007 to 2019.
Meanwhile, Israel filed 141 bills during her time in the House. Of those, 10 made it to Governor Abbott. That’s 7%. She served in the legislature roughly half the time Watson did: Working four sessions from 2015 to 2021.
“It’s a bit challenge to compare apples to apples, right? The Representative was a part of the House of Representatives. And you have Senator Watson which is part of the Texas Senate. The size of the bodies are vastly different,” said Steven Pedigo, director of the LBJ Urban Lab. There are 150 members in the House and 31 in the Senate.
“How you view that data and how you look at that data I think is one of those independent things that we as voters have to look at, but thinking about being able to get support around your ideas is a super important idea,” he followed.
Israel also pointed to that difference in her statement to KXAN and added in part:
“In the Senate, you get bills passed by cozying up to Dan Patrick. In the House, Rep. Israel and her colleagues had to take tough stances in defense of individual liberties and suffer the consequences of partisan retribution. But she’s proud to have helped lead the quorum bust to protest Abbott’s voter suppression bill. She stood with Rep. Donna Howard against SB 8’s attacks on abortion rights. She helped lead the defense against Dan Patrick’s and Greg Abbott’s cruel attacks on trans kids. And she was part of the coalition that ended Chapter 313 that for years had let multi-billion-dollar corporations get out of paying taxes and continue the trend of underfunding our schools...
To insinuate that Celia wasn’t an effective legislator and can’t be an effective leader for Austin is sexist and downright ridiculous. Leadership is not about attaching your name to accomplishments – it’s about having vision and seeing it through various means, regardless of final credit.“
Meanwhile, Watson’s campaign said the following:
“Sen. Watson is proud of his record of getting things done for the city of Austin, not only as Mayor but as a legislator in the Texas Senate. His love and commitment to this city have shown his ability to bring people together and address some of Austin’s biggest issues. As voters are deciding the next Mayor of Austin, it’s important to compare this record to see who will be best equipped to lead our city into the future.”
Early voting ends this week. Election day is Dec. 13.