The mayoral runoff in Austin, Texas, suggests a shift in voter priority after a pro-police funding Democrat was elected over his progressive challenger.
Former State Sen. Kirk Watson and Democratic mayoral candidate defeated progressive state Rep. Celia Israel in the Dec. 13 runoff.
Watson initially served as mayor of Austin more than 20 years ago from 1997 to 2001. The Democrat won with a slim lead over Israel, 50.39% to 49.61%.
“As a department with dwindling resources as well as troubles recruiting and retaining officers, which is resulting in increased response times, we’re encouraged to have a mayor saying public safety is a priority. Our officers are tired and worn out yet continue to show up and do their absolute best to make Austin a safe city,” Thomas Villarreal, president of the Austin Police Association, told Fox News Digital regarding Watson’s victory.
During his campaign, Watson said he supported a fully funded police department, despite movements within the city to cut back on law enforcement funding.
“It would be a breath of fresh air to see a mayor who follows through and truly supports our officers. We are grateful the voters are making that possible and hope Mayor-elect Watson will do just that,” Villarreal said.
During her time as a state representative, Israel, Watson’s opponent, voted against HB 1900 and HB 1925, bills aimed at strengthening public safety and police funding in the city.
Following the Black Lives Matter riots in 2020, the Austin City Council reduced the city police budget by 30%, immediately cutting about $20 million from law enforcement and more than $100 million overall.
“I’m as grateful today as I was 25 years ago to be entrusted with this job,” Watson said during an election watch party. “It means a lot to me to know that Austenites in every part of this city still want the kind of leadership that I’ve tried to deliver both as mayor and as your state senator.”
Fox News’ Andrew Mark Miller contributed to this report.