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Outgoing Democratic Attorney General Celia Israel announced on Tuesday that she will run for the mayor of Austin.
Israel, which was elected to the Texas House in 2014, said its campaign would focus on housing, affordability and transportation in the city.
“The city I have lived in since 1982 has become an exclusive city. It’s ultra unavailable and in my opinion we are becoming a city that forgets about the women and men who are building this economy, “said Israel, who moved to Austin to the University of Texas when she was 17 years old. “I’m afraid we’re becoming a city we don’t really want to be, and I think we need to act urgently.”
Israel, which represents parts of North and Northeast Austin at Texas House, said it was concerned about the declining number of Hispanic and black Austinites as part of the city’s population. She said the declines stemmed from the affordability crisis that had left colored Austinites out of the working class environment.
Israel, a real estate agent, said she saw firsthand through her clients how difficult it was to try to live or rent in Austin.
“My heart aches when I tell clients to keep going until you can afford it. It’s painful, “she said. “In this great economy, the people who really drive this economic engine are lagging behind.”
Israel announced this at Parque Zaragoza in East Austin, a traditional Latin American part of the city, where housing prices have risen sharply in recent years as wealthier white homeowners move and buy homes. Parque Zaragoza is a traditional meeting place for many longtime Latino families in the area, and Israel, who worked for Governor Ann Richards, said he remembered holding a Get Out the Vote rally there, offering Tejano music and barbecues.
“Everyone in Austin politics knows it’s a polling station, and I hope they run a campaign that respects that,” she said.
Israel said it planned to use its legislative experience in working with the state to help the city address some of its most pressing goals. He has close ties to his fellow lawmakers in Austin’s legislative delegation, but has a controversial relationship with national Republican leaders who have often directly attacked Austin for the city’s liberal policies.
“I have a job and the state has a job, but voters are well sent when we work together and work together,” she said.
In the House, Israel was best known for its work on LGBTQ suffrage and equality. Last summer, Israel was among the House Democrats who fled to Washington, DC, to prevent the Republican Party’s election law, which Democrats said would make voting in the state more difficult. Although Democrats remained a party for a little over a month, Republican leaders convened another special session to pass legislation.
When she left for Washington in July, Israel had to postpone her plans to marry her 26-year-old partner, Celinda Garza. The two were married in October by fellow Austin State Attorney Donna Howard.
Israel was a founding member of the LGBTQ Caucus. She has also worked on investments in transport infrastructure, which she says she hopes to use to help the city update the public transport system.
If elected, Israel would be the city’s first openly gay and Latin mayor. Gus Garcia overtook her as Austin’s first Latin mayor.
Former Austin Mayor and Democrat Senator Kirk Watson has also expressed interest in running for the position, as has Kathie Tovo, a city council member. Two candidates have formally announced their candidacy: Jennifer Virden, a real estate agent and former Austin City Council candidate, and Erica Nix, a fitness trainer and LGBTQ activist, whose campaign documents describe her as a point of positivity ambassador.
The current mayor of Austin, Steve Adler, must resign at the end of his second term if he does not collect petitions from 5% of registered voters to run for a third term. Adler said he did not plan to collect petitions.
The candidate elected in 2022 will only serve a two-year term as Austin seeks to align his mayoral election with the presidential election in an effort to increase turnout.