After Narrow Loss in Mayor’s Race, Celia Tries for Tax Assessor-Collector

Bruce Elfant retires after a decade

Celia Israel will not be challenging Kirk Watson in the upcoming mayor’s race (Photo by Jana Birchum)

After Bruce Elfant, Travis County’s tax assessor-collector for more than a decade, announced his retirement last week, Celia Israel, former mayoral candidate who lost to Kirk Watson by around 900 votes, announced she’ll be running to replace him.

“I certainly hadn’t planned on running for tax assessor-collector,” said Israel. “But it is an opportunity to serve, and I have something to give back.”

Israel says her background in the Legislature on voting rights has prepared her for the position; specifically the bipartisan support she garnered on House Bill 76, which would have legalized online voter registration, back in 2021. She served on the Elections Committee for three terms, “so I understand the intricacies of the elections code, I understand how important it is that we make systems more efficient, that we make those systems open to those that need to be registered to vote.” (Online registration did not pass the legislature, and Elfant authored an op-ed criticizing opposition to it in the Chronicle earlier this year.) “It is frustrating to see the state of Texas attacking local government, because local government is doing the work of the state. We need someone to stand firm and say your attacks are baseless.”

The tax assessor-collector not only manages the process of voter registration, but also calculates and collects property taxes. Israel says she hopes to use her voice to advocate for common sense efficiency proposals like online registration, as well as continuing to speak up about the housing crisis in Austin. “The issues around housing and affordability which I felt so strongly about and are still resonating at City Hall will continue to exist, and I think there’s an opportunity for my voice. It’ll just be with a different title.”

As for her decision not to challenge Watson, who will have to run again in 2024, she says “this is where the political waters were taking me. With Bruce not running for reelection, with my background as an advocate around the topics that the tax assessor-collector does, it seems to me like this is the universe saying, here’s an opportunity for you to serve.”

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect that the tax assessor-collector is not in charge of elections, only voter registration; elections is under the County Clerk’s office. The Chronicle regrets the error.

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