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Austin's got its first mayoral candidate heading into the November 2022 race.

Jennifer Virden, a conservative real estate broker and general contractor who challenged District 10 Council Member Alison Alter last year, announced she is running in a series of tweets Monday.


Virden's platform stands in sharp contrast to the direction of City Council in recent years, with four key planks, according to her campaign website:

  • Restore police budget cuts
  • End homeless camping
  • Increase the homestead tax exemption to 20%
  • End the land use code rewrite process
Austin City Council voted unanimously to cut the Austin Police Department budget last August, following mass protests against police violence and racial injustice. Members have spent years attempting to rewrite the city's land use code, which was last updated in the 1980s and is currently ensnared in a lawsuit. The city of Austin reinstated its homeless camping ban in May after a successful petition effort by the local political action committee Save Austin Now. Council approved a 20% homestead exemption earlier this month.

In addition to these issues, Virden tweeted that she would be a champion of parks and other green spaces, including the hotly debated Lions Municipal Golf Course, and "minimize the virtue signaling resolutions overwhelming our City Manager," if elected.

Virden, a native Austinite, ran against Alter in the crowded District 10 council race last year. Both opposed the camping ban, but Virden clashed with Alter on other issues, including Project Connect, which Austinites overwhelmingly supported in the November election, and efforts to cut police funding. Virden forced Alter into a runoff, which she narrowly lost.

Although Austin mayoral and council seats race nonpartisan, Virden is a conservative candidate running in a very liberal city. Only 26% of Travis County voters supported Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential race. Alter highlighted Virden's donations to a Trump-affiliated PAC in the runup to the Dec. 15 runoff, telling the Austin American-Statesman, "I think that tells a lot about someone's character." A coalition of Young Republican groups also hosted a "statewide deployment" of Republicans to Austin to support Virden around the same time.

Virden has received endorsements from two former Austin mayors: Lee Leffingwell, a Democrat who served two terms from 2009 to 2015 and endorsed Virden as well as District 6 Council Member Mackenzie Kelly last year, and Ron Mullen, a former San Antonio police officer who served from 1983 to 1985.

Mayor Steve Adler's second and final term ends in early 2023, although he can petition for a third term. No other candidates have entered the race so far, but some speculate that District 4 Council Member Greg Casar and Adam Loewy, a personal injury lawyer and major donor to Democratic candidates, are mulling runs.

The winner of the 2022 mayoral race will serve a two-year term after Austin residents voted to change mayoral elections to presidential years in the May 1 local election. Another mayoral race will occur in 2024.

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