As Austinites continue trying to extinguish multiple disasters in their communities and neighborhoods throughout Texas’ capital city, one local elected official who helped inflame the crises now wants to leave for more power in Washington, D.C.

Austin City Councilman Greg Casar, a self-proclaimed member of the Democratic Socialists of America, is officially trying to take a newly opened seat in the U.S. House of Representatives—the U.S. 35th Congressional District, which spans from Austin to San Antonio.

In an announcement video Thursday, Casar said he has fought for a “living wage” and more abortions.

“No one thought … that a young organizer could win a seat on the city council or that our big dreams and bold ideas could turn into transformational policies,” he said. “But we fought and we won … so that workers could make a living wage, so families could afford to stay in their home, and reproductive rights could be protected.”

Troubling History

Yet despite his claims, Councilman Casar’s actions at city hall over the past seven years have done the exact opposite for citizens and raise many red flags as they consider who they’ll send to Washington, D.C.

For one, Casar has repeatedly voted to raise taxes on Austinites—enflaming an affordability crisis in the city where at least 42 percent of the area’s working families have struggled to pay their bills. Austin was also recently ranked the third worst livable city in America for minimum-wage employees, in part because local officials are constantly charging higher property tax bills.

(Notably, over the last 13 years, the Democrat-run Austin City Council has raised the median homeowner’s city property taxes by 150 percent.)

Casar was also a leader of the contentious 2019 homeless camping decision, when he and the council legalized unrestrained public camping in nearly all spaces across the city (except city hall, notably). The decision ignited a two-year wildfire throughout Austin, including surges of homeless individuals and tents on the streets, outbreaks of violent crime, and public backlash and petitions. The issue culminated earlier this year when a majority of Austinites citywide showed up to the polls to override the council’s decision.

Furthermore, Casar was one of the architects of last year’s “defund the police” decision, when he and the council cut up to $150 million from the Austin Police Department (one-third of their budget) and canceled three police cadet training academies. Since then, the department has lost hundreds of officers and disbanded numerous units, 911 response times are now “dramatically slower,” and APD Chief Joseph Chacon announced last month that the department will no longer dispatch officers for numerous 911 calls.

Meanwhile, a record killing spree and violent crime binge has unfolded on the streets.

If that wasn’t enough, Casar and the council have repeatedly funneled citizens’ money toward killing babies, with Casar fighting against Texas’ new life-saving Heartbeat Act and even saying more abortions will make Austin a “safer and better place to live.”

“Together, we’ve made real progressive change in Texas, but our biggest challenges are still ahead,” Casar said in his video.

Citizen Reaction

“@GregCasar will never, ever be able to hop, skip, or jump his way to a promotion in our nation’s House of Representatives,” wrote citizen group Save Austin Now last month when he first considered the contest. “The people of Austin will make sure that the people who he needs to support his next adventure know what he has actually done.”

“Why do you and the Austin City Council keep voting to raise taxes, if you are really concerned about affordable housing,” one individual replied on social media.

“He has done one thing. He got less police to patrol the area[,] making immigrants feel safer according to him,” another wrote.

“Unfortunately I work in his district,” another citizen added. “My citizen app is constantly going off with assaults, robberies, or person with a gun. It’s like a war zone.”

“A better world is possible without you in elected office comrade. People are waking more everyday to your failed socialist policies,” tweeted one.

“Greg – you’re already lying – change your tag line – not a ‘Progressive Democrat’ you are a card carrying and active member of the [Democratic Socialists of America]. Run under your own banner,” another replied.

The congressional seat opened after some recent political shifts in the area. In October, the district’s current Democrat U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett announced he is leaving the position to run for a nearby newly formed congressional district in Austin, which sparked several politicians—including Casar and Democrat State Reps. Eddie Rodriguez (Austin) and Trey Martinez Fischer (San Antonio)—to consider competing for the open spot.

The contest will likely be crowded, as two other Democrat candidates (Claudia Zapata and David Anderson Jr.) have already entered the race.

Texas Scorecard will continue to follow the race heading into next year’s election.

Jacob Asmussen

Jacob Asmussen is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard. He attended the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and in 2017 earned a double major in public relations and piano performance.