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Austin Council Member Greg Casar will run for Congress, vacating his Council seat midterm

Thursday, November 4, 2021 by Audrey McGlinchy, KUT

Greg Casar, who has served on Austin City Council since 2015, will run for U.S. Congress, he announced Thursday.

Casar last month teased a race for federal office, saying he was “considering” a run and had convened a committee of advisers.

“I believe that working families from Bexar to Comal to Hays to Travis County deserve a progressive leader who will fight for and deliver on reproductive rights, Medicare for all, good jobs and a better Texas,” he told KUT.

Casar, 32, will vie to represent Texas’s 35th congressional district, which stretches from East Austin and down Interstate 35 to San Antonio. He will first need to win the Democratic primary, which is scheduled for March 2022. U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, who currently represents the district, announced last month he would be running to represent a new, more central Austin district created in the latest redistricting effort by state lawmakers.

At least one other person, community activist Claudia Zapata, has said they’ve filed to run for the 35th district. Last month, Democratic state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, who has represented Austin’s House District 51 since 2002, told KUT he is also considering entering the race.

In order to run, Casar will have to vacate his seat as the representative for Austin City Council District 4, one of the city’s most heavily populated Latino districts. He’ll keep his job until a new Council member is elected in a special election. It’s unclear exactly when that would take place, but it would likely be within the next several months.

Whoever is elected to fill Casar’s vacant seat will serve the rest of his term, which ends in January 2025. Casar’s election to the District 4 seat eight years ago coincided with the city’s move to a new geographic representative government. He is one of 10 Council members who represent residents in districts across the city.

A former community organizer from Houston and the son of Mexican immigrants, Casar became Austin’s youngest Council member when he was elected in 2014. During his two terms he has initiated policy changes on labor rights and affordable housing, some of which have been challenged and effectively defeated by the state. He led a successful campaign in 2018 to get Council to mandate paid sick days for private employees in the city, but that policy has yet to go into effect because of a legal challenge from Texas.

Casar said he hopes by serving at the federal level he can circumvent challenges from the state to changes he has wanted to make on the local level. “(State lawmakers) have attacked voting rights. They have attacked reproductive rights. And it doesn’t look like they’re really going to fix the grid,” he said. “We need someone in Congress who will, so that our families don’t freeze in the next storm.”

As for who could potentially replace Casar, Chito Vela, an immigration lawyer in Austin, has said on social media he will run for the Council seat once Casar’s run for U.S. Congress is official. He confirmed as much to KUT on Wednesday.

Casar said the price of housing will be one of his main concerns during his last months on Council.

“I think we have so much work left to do as a city on affordability,” he said. “We have to get under control the skyrocketing cost of housing.”

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.

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