UPDATE: Northwest Austin's District 6 will have a new Austin City Council member after challenger Mackenzie Kelly toppled incumbent Jimmy Flannigan's reelection campaign with a victory in the Dec. 15 runoff election.
Kelly, who jumped to an early lead after early voting totals were announced, earned 7,875 of the 15,073 ballots cast between Travis and Williamson counties, or 52.2% of the vote. Kelly forced a runoff election after earning 33.4% of the popular vote in November. Although she trailed Flannigan, who earned 40.3% of the vote, neither candidate earned more than the required 50% vote share, triggering a head-to-head race in December.
This year's District 6 race was the third consecutive race to feature Flannigan. He lost in a 2014 runoff election to Don Zimmerman but came back to beat the incumbent in the general election in 2016. Flannigan, the first openly gay man to serve on City Council, as well as the first Williamson County resident, called it a "tough night" but said he was proud of his work as an elected official.
"Addressing inequality, addressing problems in our police department, addressing homelessness are the right things we have done," Flannigan told his supporters over a Zoom call. "We have made this city more empathetic. We have made this city a better place. Just because the path to inequality isn't straight does not mean we are not on the path."
Kelly, who has run to Flannigan's right, was drawn to the race following the uproar over City Council's 2019 decision to decriminalize homelessness and effectively allow the homeless community to set up camps in more public spaces. She also came out in vehement objection to City Council August decision to cut the Austin Police Department budget in response to protests over racial injustice and aggressive policing.
Kelly did not return Community Impact Newspaper's requests for comment.
ORIGINAL STORY: Early voting totals have been counted and challenger Mackenzie Kelly holds an early lead over incumbent James "Jimmy" Flannigan for the Northwest Austin District 6 Austin City Council seat.
With 11,475 votes cast in the race between Travis and Williamson counties, Kelly leads Flannigan 51.9% to 48.1%, with a 435-vote lead. Election Day totals have not been counted yet after polls closed at 7 p.m. in both counties
Flannigan and Kelly finished as the top two candidates following the November general election. Flannigan finished in November with the most votes in the race earning 40.3% of the 34,523 votes cast between the two counties. Kelly drew 33.4% of the votes, defeating third-place finisher Jennifer Mushtaler by more than 14 points. Since neither candidate crossed the 50% vote share threshold, a runoff election was required.
Kelly has run her campaign to Flannigan's right, criticizing the incumbent for his vote to reduce the police budget over the summer and his support in 2019 to effectively decriminalize homelessness, lifting a previous ban that has since allowed those experiencing homelessness to camp in public. The District 6 race, as well as the District 10 race in which a conservative is challenging a more liberal incumbent, has been seen as a referendum on the police budget and homelessness policies.
This story will be updated as Election Day results are released throughout the night. Voting results are not official until they have been canvased by the county clerks.