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Austin Mayor Kirk Watson announces he will run again in November

A man in a blue suit jacket and blue stripped button-up poses in front of white flag emblazoned with red and blue City of Austin logo.
Renee Dominguez
KUT News
Austin Mayor Kirk Watson will seek another term as mayor.

Austin Mayor Kirk Watson will seek reelection in November, he announced Wednesday.

Watson was elected in 2022 to serve a two-year term instead of a full four years. Austinites voted in 2021 to move mayoral elections to the same year as presidential elections in an effort to increase voter turnout.

If reelected, Watson will serve a full four-year term.

Watson previously served as mayor from 1997 to 2001, when he stepped down to run for state office. He served as a state senator for more than 13 years before returning to the job of mayor.

Watson is the fourth candidate to announce his candidacy. He will face former City Council Member Kathie Tovo,East Austin community organizer Carmen Llanes Pulido and Doug Greco, the former director of Central Texas Interfaith.

Candidates have until Aug. 19 to file for election.

Watson previously told KUT that he had intended to run for mayor to see the city through efforts to improve public safety and housing, and to get the city back a system that consistently meets the needs of the community, including emergency preparedness.

“When I became mayor 15 months ago, it was widely understood that City Hall was failing to deliver on some of our community’s basic needs,” Watson said Wednesday. “Today I think it’s widely understood that things have changed for the better, and we’ve reset how the city does business.”

He said with the help of the council members and the city manager, the city has helped “restore efficient, effective basic services while also helping put us on a new path to tackle some of Austin’s biggest long-term challenges.”

While in office, Watson has been at the helm of some controversial decisions. He has even been accused of making decisions without the council, for instance, when he and interim City Manager Jesús Garza enlisted Texas DPS troopers to help patrolthe city amid a police staffing shortage. The partnership ended a few months later after some communities alleged racial profiling and overpatrolling of certain neighborhoods.

“The safety of our community is a primary function of city government, and we must keep trying to get it right,” Watson said at the time. “This partnership was an innovative approach to address acute staffing shortages that were years in the making. However, any approach must be in sync with Austin values.”

Over the summer, he announced a plan to revamp Zilker Park would not move forward, which received mixed reviews from some in the community.

Earlier this year, he supported the hiring of former Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo in a newly created position to oversee the Austin Police Department. After pushback from the community, the job was rescinded. He also supported the controversial selection of consulting giant McKinsey to conduct a third-party review of the area’s homeless services. The agreement did not move forward after all.

While some decisions have not worked out, Watson has been involved in work to fill vacancies at the 911 call center and the police department, and to get the Austin Police Association back to the table to negotiate a long-term labor contract. He also has pushed forward efforts to increase housing, including the HOME initiative, which allows property owners to build up to three homes on land and could reduce the amount of land needed to build a home on. He has also been involved in work around child care and moving Project Connect forward.

Under Watson's leadership, the city has worked to open more permanent supportive housing for people experiencing homelessness. The city also reopened the downtown Salvation Army shelter and opened a temporary homeless shelter — the Marshalling Yard — in Southeast Austin.

“We’ve made great progress in a short time; now we need to build on our successes,” he said Wednesday. “With a full term, I’ll keep working to ensure that City Hall consistently delivers what Austinites expect and deserve. I love Austin and I’m as committed as ever to protecting the special quality of life we enjoy here.”

In addition to voting for mayor this November, residents will also elect City Council representatives for Districts 2, 4, 6, 7 and 10.

Luz Moreno-Lozano is the Austin City Hall reporter at KUT. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on X @LuzMorenoLozano.
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