Former Mayor and Senator Kirk Watson and State Representative Celia Israel were among six candidates running for Austin mayor in the November election. They are now in a runoff in the December 13 election.
Celia Israel was raised in El Paso. She moved to Austin in 1982 to attend the University of Texas. After graduating with a degree in government, she served in Gov. Ann Richards’ administration. Israel is a licensed Texas realtor.
Celia won a special election held in 2014, to represent the 50th district in the Texas House of Representatives.
She is a member of the Legislative Study Group, the Women's Health Caucus, the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, and is a founding member of the Texas House LGBTQ Caucus. She previously served as vice chair of the Texas House Democratic Caucus, overseeing the Steering and Policy Committee.
During her first term in the legislature, she was named Freshman of the Year by the Legislative Study Group, a Champion of Equality by Equality Texas, and a Progressive Champion by Progress Texas. In 2018, Israel was inducted into the Austin Women's Hall of Fame. She has served on numerous boards and committees focused on multimodal transportation, food scarcity, and empowering the next generation of female leaders.
Kirk Watson served as mayor of Austin from 1997 to 2001. In 2006, Watson was elected to the Texas Senate. He resigned from the Senate in 2020 to become the first dean of the University of Hobby School of Public Affairs. He resigned from that to run for Austin mayor.
In 1991, he was appointed by Gov. Ann Richards to chair the Texas Air Control Board, the agency charged with addressing air quality issues in Texas. He was Vice-Chair of the committee that oversaw the creation of the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission, now known as the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
He has chaired both the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce and the Texas Advisory Board of Environmental Defense. He also has been a member of the executive committee of the State Bar of Texas and president of the Texas Young Lawyers Association. He chaired the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, the primary transportation planning agency for Central Texas. Kirk led the effort to create the Dell Medical School at UT Austin.
He has been named Austinite of the Year by the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce. The Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life at UT Austin awarded him the inaugural Civic Champion Award in 2020. In 2021, the Austin Parks Foundation gave him its Lifetime Achievement Award.
Kirk graduated from Baylor University and ranked first in his law school class at Baylor Law School. He has been named an outstanding young alumnus of Baylor, Young Baylor Lawyer of the Year, and the Outstanding Young Lawyer of Texas.