Austin mayoral candidate sues city over electoral rules
AUSTIN (KXAN) – An Austin mayoral candidate is suing the city.
Jennifer Virden, who announced her mayoral campaign earlier this week, has filed a lawsuit against the city of Austin, alleging that it is unconstitutional to prevent it from raising funds until November.
Municipal ordinances prevent municipal general election candidates from accepting campaign donations for up to one year before election day.
Virden’s campaign ad arrived on Monday in a series of three tweets. In those tweets, she said she would focus on funding municipal services as mayor and further develop her platform on her official website.
In March, Virden filed a lawsuit against the city of Austin alleging that section 2-2-7 (B) of the city ordinances is unconstitutional and “has the effect of silencing the competing rhetoric of the challengers.”
In a hearing at the federal courthouse on Friday, Virden’s lawyer Jerad Najvar asked a judge to issue a preliminary injunction on § 2-2-7 (B), which would allow Virden to begin immediately to fundraise.
Najvar explained that the ban on candidates raising funds more than a year before the election allows incumbents to speak out about issues as they arise, but prevents challengers from doing the same. thing.
“People with a different perspective, people who want to go out and challenge what’s going on in the city right now don’t have these [media] benefits. And so, they have to raise funds. So Austin’s law, as it currently stands, prevents organized opposition from coming together, ”Najvar said in an interview earlier Friday.
Additionally, when asked why it was important for Virden to get an injunction, Najvar referred to voters who want to start donating now but are not allowed to.
“She has a lot of people who are already interested in contributing to the campaign, including people, you know, supporters from a previous campaign and new people who were just organically drawn to a post,” Najvar said.
According to the City of Austin’s written response to the preliminary injunction request, Virden should not be granted an injunction for several reasons, including a lack of standing and a lack of diligence in challenging the order. .
“In election-related cases, no less than in most cases, a party asking for emergency aid of the kind Virden is looking for must exercise ‘due diligence.’ Such diligence is something that Virden clearly cannot show, ”the City of Austin attorneys wrote.
The city’s response also pointed out that the restrictions on fundraising were the result of a 1997 citizens’ initiative, and voters approved the provisions with “an overwhelming 72% margin.”
Najvar said he was not impressed by the city of Austin’s arguments against granting an injunction to Virden.
“The city has basically admitted today, and throughout, that it has no reason, it has no justification for this ban on campaign contributions. And they asked the court for time to catch one. This is not how the First Amendment works, ”Najvar said.
Virden did not speak in an interview on Friday, and Najvar did not speak in depth about his platform, but he said Virden’s trial is important to all Austinites who want to challenge the incumbents in the future. .
“What we’re trying to do is open that way, you know, for challengers, for candidates with a different perspective to come in and get their message out,” Virden’s lawyer explained.
General elections take place in November 2022.