AUSTIN (KXAN) — You’re going to find six people on your ballot this November for Austin mayor, as Mayor Steve Adler is term-limited and will be leaving office.
Brian Smith, a professor of political science at St. Edward’s University, expects the highly publicized races for Texas governor, attorney general and lieutenant governor to draw more turnout in Austin, which will in turn produce higher turnout for the city council and mayoral races.
“If we have a problem in our neighborhood, it’s the city council that’s going to fix it. If we need more services here in the city of Austin, or Travis County, or the metro area, it’s these bond elections that pay for them,” Smith said. “So in many ways, these elections are overlooked or seen as not important, but in reality, they’re very consequential.”
Here are the candidates, in the order they appear on the ballot.
Phil Campero Brual
Brual, a city council newcomer and University of Texas at Austin government and history student, said he’s running to represent the common Austinite.
“We will no longer be a city represented by out of touch millionaires who pretend to understand the real struggles of the people living and working in Austin,” he wrote on his campaign website.
Brual said he works three part-time jobs and is a legislative intern at the Texas State Capitol, as stated on his campaign website.
You can find more details about Brual on his campaign website.
Rep. Celia Israel
Israel said she’s running to ensure Austin doesn’t become an “elitist,” unwelcoming city that loses its unique nature and its natives who make it that way. Housing and affordability have been major parts of her campaign.
“No one else in the race has my lived experience,” Israel said. “I grew up in a border town, member of the Latino community, the LGBT community. Just a working class chick who happens to have been serving the state in a unique capacity in the legislature.”
Israel didn’t grow up wanting to be in politics and her parents were not political, she said. It was Ann Richards in 1990 who picked Israel to be her volunteer coordinator that stoked Israel’s desire to work in local government.
“I often describe myself politically as an Ann Richards Democrat,” Israel said. “And what that means to me is of course, keep your sense of humor, never forget where you came from…surround yourself with good people.”
Sen. Kirk Watson
Watson — who has already served as mayor of Austin previously — wants the job back.
“We’re at a real turning point in this city from the standpoint of we’re not longer becoming a big city, we are a big city,” Watson said. “We need to be making some hard decisions and we need someone with proven experience of getting things done with a real positive vision of where we want to go.”
Watson most recently served as the dean of the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston after leaving his post as a Texas Senator in 2020. He said he’s running “because there’s more to do.”
In a campaign introduction email, Watson said his priorities are fixing Austin’s cost of living, homelessness issues, systemic racism, public safety, transportation and making sure infrastructure is good enough to “manage Austin’s success.”
“We’re in a cost of living and an affordability emergency,” he said. “And that means we need to act with urgency. That includes housing, but it includes other things as well like how do we help people with childcare which many things in the second largest expense.”
Bradshaw, another political newcomer, has focused his largely word-of-mouth campaign on equity.
“Let’s make a better Austin. Let’s make Austin stronger, better,” Bradshaw said in an interview with KXAN after his announcement to run. “Let’s see Austin succeed and prosper. But I believe that people coming together, in unity and in strength, it’s the people that’s going to make Austin great by us coming together and working together.”
You can find more details about Bradshaw on his campaign website.
If you’re a District 10 voter, you’ve seen this name on your ballot before. Jennifer Virden was defeated in a runoff by incumbent Alison Alter in the 2020 Austin City Council race. She is now looking to “restore common sense, transparency and public service back to the mayor’s office.”
“During that race I formed a coalition of Democrats, Republicans and Independents because my nonpartisan, common-sense platform resonated across Austin,” Virden said in a mayoral candidate video produced by the City of Austin.
Virden is from Austin, went to UT and is a businesswoman.
“We are going to cut the city portion of our property taxes by 3.5% per year,” Virden said of her priorities. On top of affordable housing, which is a primary focus for all candidates this year, Virden said she will also prioritize public safety and homelessness.
“My two main opponents will just continue Austin on the same downward trajectory, they will govern exactly the same as our current leadership does,” she said, promising transparency should she be elected.
Virden sued the City of Austin last year over election rules because she wanted to start fundraising earlier than one year before the election. She lost the lawsuit.
You can read more about Virden on her campaign website.
Gary S. Spellman
Spellman proposed himself as the middle-ground candidate looking to unite a polarized city council, using the slogan “stop crying the blues, stop seeing red.”
“A lot of my friends asked me, ‘are you crazy? Why are you running for mayor? It’s a hard job. It’s a full time job. And people are going to scrutinize everything you do,'” Spellman said in his City of Austin campaign video. “I’m running for mayor because we’ve lost our direction. We’re so confined to a two party system that if you don’t agree with either side they become polarizing opinions.”
Spellman moved to Austin in 1997 and is a businessman, according to his website. He is the co-founder of Ultimate Face Cosmetics.
You can read more about Spellman on his campaign website.