AUSTIN — As local citizens continue 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 eyeing a newly opened seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“It’s very likely that I’m running,” said Casar, who has formed an exploratory committee to examine a run for the U.S. 35th Congressional District that spans from Austin to San Antonio. “The maps haven’t been signed into law yet, but shortly after they are, I will make things much more official.”

The seat opened after some recent political shifts in the area. This week, the district’s current Democrat U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett announced he’s leaving the position to run for a nearby newly formed congressional district in Austin. Doggett’s announcement sparking 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.

Troubling History

Councilman Casar’s actions at city hall over the past seven years raise many red flags for citizens as they consider who they’ll send to Washington, D.C.

For one, Casar has repeatedly voted to raise taxes on citizens, exacerbating an affordability crisis in the city where at least 42 percent of the area’s working families struggle to pay their bills. Austin was also recently ranked the third worst livable city in America for minimum-wage employees, in part because of local officials 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. This ultimately culminated in a majority of Austinites showing up to the polls to override the council’s decision in a citywide vote earlier this year.

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 (including some related to DWI, family violence safety and stalking, and criminal interdiction). In addition, 911 response times are now “dramatically slower,” and APD Chief Joseph Chacon announced earlier this month that the department will no longer dispatch officers for numerous 911 calls.

And this year, Austin is experiencing the worst killing spree in city history, breaking its homicide record in September, with three and a half months still remaining in 2021.

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 Law and even saying more abortions will make Austin a “safer and better place to live.”

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 this week. “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.”

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.