In January, the Austin City Council will have a new face representing Northwest Austin following the victory of Mackenzie Kelly over incumbent Jimmy Flannigan on Tuesday. Kelly and Flannigan were sent to a runoff following the November general election in which neither candidate secured enough votes to claim victory outright, thrusting the pair into a sometimes highly contentious battle for the District 6 seat.
Kelly’s campaign focused largely on the issues of homelessness and public safety, seizing on the public anger that was born out of revisions to the homeless camping ordinance, as well as the city council’s reallocation of millions of dollars in the police budget and elimination of multiple cadet classes. Flannigan is a staunch supporter of the current ordinance that allows the homeless to camp in most public spaces, and has been among the loudest voices in favor of police de-funding and the demolition of Austin Police Headquarters at 8th and I-35.
In a statement following her victory, Kelly said:
“From standing courageously behind our law enforcement community to demanding safer conditions for our homeless population to fighting for transparency at City Hall, the voice of Northwest Austin is has been heard. Considering the stark differences between my campaign’s priorities and the platform of the incumbent, their united voice is resoundingly clear this evening!”
In his concession, Flannigan said his defeat is not an easy pill to swallow.
“It’s a tough night for all of us, but it doesn’t mean that any of this work ends. And I am excited for the rest of my colleagues who I know will continue this work, and the future council member who I hope does her best to represent this district with honor.”
The total vote count was 7875 for Kelly and 7198 for Flannigan.
As one incumbent fell on Tuesday night, another managed to hang on for a second term. District 10 representative Alison Alter held off a challenge from Jennifer Virden in a runoff that proved to be much closer than many had predicted. Alter pushed hard in the later days of her campaign to seize on anti-Trump sentiment by painting Virden as a racist. Alter’s husband, UT professor Jeremi Suri, also chimed in on that front to accuse Virden of racism. Virden vehemently denied that allegation on more than one occasion.
Alter pulled down 12,348 votes to Virden’s 11,761.
Following her victory, Alter said:
“Thank you to the voters of District 10 who voted in favor of my integrity, policy experience, and proven leadership, and against the politics of fear. I look forward to serving another four years representing District 10. Austin’s best days are in front of us!”
Kelly’s victory brings back conservative representation to the Austin City Council dais for the first time since former council member Ellen Troxclair opted not to run for re-election in 2018. That cleared the way for Paige Ellis to take over her seat in District 8. A Virden victory would have put two conservatives onto the dais.
The Travis County Republican Party campaigned heavily for both challengers, and issued a statement of its own after the votes had been tallied:
“We are thrilled that Mackenzie Kelly has unseated Jimmy Flannigan, who has chaired the Public Safety Committee and has been the architect of the city’s efforts to defund the police and pass the camping ordinance, both of which have manifested harmed public safety. Mackenzie ran on restoring public safety for our city, while Jimmy defended the homeless camping disaster and the reckless $150 million police budget cut.
“Incumbent Alison Alter appears to have narrowly won re-election despite running against first-time candidate Jennifer Virden, having the support of the third place finisher, and holding a significant financial advantage. Jennifer ran a great campaign and we were proud to support her.
“Austin residents sent a clear message tonight. Stop the insanity. Restore public safety. Put taxpayers first. Save our city.”