Kirk Watson Wants Four More Years

Mayor makes it official, announces 2024 re-election campaign

Kirk Watson celebrates his mayoral victory on Dec. 13 (Photo by Jana Birchum)

The once-again mayor is looking to earn another term. Kirk Watson formally announced today, April 10, his 2024 re-election bid.

If re-elected Watson will serve a full four-year term, meaning his reign at City Hall would have a January 2029 scheduled end date. In his campaign announcement, Watson trumpeted key accomplishments of his first, two-year term, such as passing ambitious housing reform and helping to initiate a “reset” of City Hall bureaucracy. “Working closely with this City Council and City Manager,” Watson wrote in a news release, “I’m proud to have helped us restore efficient, effective basic services while also helping put us on a new path to tackle some of Austin’s biggest long-term challenges.”

Whether or not Watson has indeed worked closely with Council, it is inarguable that the mayor has worked very closely with outgoing Interim City Manager (and longtime ally) Jesús Garza. The closeness of the latter relationship was a big part of what allowed Watson to forge ahead with controversial decisions without the input or support from his Council colleagues. Initiating a partnership with the Texas Department of Public Safety to patrol mostly Black and brown neighborhoods in East Austin, attempting to hire disgraced former Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo, and even restarting negotiations with the Austin Police Association for a long-term labor contract under conditions set by the APA were all significant Garza decisions which Watson either endorsed or did not publicly oppose.

Watson’s ability to get things done at City Hall cannot be denied. Early into his tenure he helped initiate changes to the city’s permitting review process that are already showing results; he helped pass the kind of Land Development Code change that prior Councils could only dream of; and he helped stave off budget cuts at Integral Care, the largest provider of mental health care in Travis County and a key partner in addressing homelessness throughout the city.

Given Watson’s two-year track record as mayor with his reputation as a vindictive leader, it’s no surprise that he has already secured the endorsement of eight-of-10 Council members. These colleagues “want a partner in the mayor’s office who is open-minded, forward-thinking,” Watson said in the news release, which is likely true – they may also see no benefit in not endorsing an incumbent mayor whose challengers, as of today, are longshots. Former CM Kathie Tovo, land-use activist Carmen Llanes Pulido, and Central Texas Interfaith organizer and pastor Doug Greco have all announced mayoral campaigns, though none of them have launched aggressive ad campaigns or made frequent public appearances since announcing.

CM Alison Alter, who endorsed Watson in 2022, is one of the two CMs (Mackenzie Kelly being the other) not endorsing Watson today. “I have learned when someone shows who they are, believe them,” Alter, who is not seeking re-election this year, told the Chronicle. “Watson has acted as a bully and prevented real policy deliberation by members of the Council and of the public.”

The mayoral and Council elections are set for Nov. 5.

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