AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin is a day away from finding out who its next mayor will be. On Election Day Eve, both candidates are hoping to reach voters before they head to the polls to make their final vote this election.
At Senator Kirk Watson’s campaign office in downtown Austin, volunteers and staff filled every room, many preparing to do last-minute door knocking and making calls to potential voters.
Less than 10 minutes away, Representative Celia Israel’s wife cooked burgers for volunteers who would also go door-to-door despite the gloomy Monday weather.
“If you care about housing and affordability, if you want a pro-solutions, pro-housing mayor and council, make sure that you go out and vote,” Israel said of her final message to voters.
“The last push is that city hall is not taking care of the basics that we need to take care of and as a result of that, a lot of what we love about this town is at risk. And so we need somebody that’s going to be our next mayor that is capable of on day one getting the big things done,” Watson said.
‘As ridiculous as it gets’: Both candidates refute PAC ads
Heading into the weekend, Watson says an Israel-backed PAC ad was released calling him “Trump Republican-endorsed.” Though the mayoral seat is intended to be nonpartisan, both Watson and Israel are Democrats.
“They even included a picture they got somewhere which apparently involved having my eyeballs burned out and my hair set on fire, which is a real bummer because I need all the hair I have left,” Watson said. “But seriously, this is about as ridiculous as it gets.”
Several of Austin City Council members have also been vocal about the ad, including Council Member Leslie Pool who responded on Twitter: “that ad from Celia’s PAC inferring Trump has endorsed Kirk. It’s absurd, & Celia absolutely knows it. Has she done anything about it? Nope. Nada. Zilch.”
When asked about the political action committee ads circulating right now, Israel said there’s no room for negativity in this race. Candidates are not allowed to interact with PACs that support them.
“I believe that we have a message that is resonating with voters, it’s why we came out ahead on Election Night,” Israel said.
Several weeks prior, Stand Together Austin, a PAC that backs Watson released ads that looked at Israel’s history with housing and opposition to a 2021 victim compensation bill.
One of the ads references Israel’s remarks on HB-4471, a 2021 bill. It would have increased some state fees related to nonprofits. The money would have gone to the Crime Victims Compensation Fund, which struggled to pull in money during the pandemic.
Israel did indeed oppose that bill in 2021. So, eventually, did one of the bill’s authors after Israel argued it would negatively impact nonprofits. The bill didn’t make it to a floor vote.
The other ad shows demolition permit applications from the City of Austin that highlight Israel’s work with a housing and design group that builds homes worth millions of dollars here in Austin.
Israel said the claim is “a campaigning tactic to mislead voters,” while Mykle Tomlinson, a consultant with the PAC, said he gathered the appraisals and “the ads are true.”
Which voters showed up for early voting?
The interactive map below shows the early voting turnout per precinct compared to the Nov. 8 turnout. You can also see which candidate for Austin mayor won that precinct in the November election.
In terms of who those voters are, a breakdown of who won in each precinct shows a “stark geographical divide” that centrally traces Mopac, Steven Pedigo, an urban policy expert and director of the LBJ Urban Lab, pointed out shortly after the November election.
“That speaks, I think, a lot to about perhaps how we think about Austin in terms of new Austin versus old Austin…More established Austin being in the west part of the city and obviously east Austin we’re seeing newer, younger residents,” Pedigo said. He also pointed to the pressures of gentrification and displacement in those areas.