Our first special election for 2017 is now on the clock.
State Rep. Dawnna Dukes, who is facing a criminal investigation over her use of state funds, will resign from her seat in the Texas House in January, according to the Quorum Report, a Texas political news website.
The 11-term Austin Democrat cited medical issues stemming from a 2013 car accident as the reason for her departure.
“This has been a very difficult decision to make. However, in light of my ongoing health issues and concerns, I find that I can no longer provide the active, effective leadership that is needed to continue my sworn duties,” she said. “I must take the time to focus all of my energy to heal and continue to provide for my young daughter and extended family.”
Dukes’ announcement comes as the Texas Rangers and the Travis County district attorney’s office investigate, among other issues, her use of state resources for nongovernmental purposes, including having staff do personal errands for her and work on a nonprofit event she co-founded.
Dukes will retire Jan. 10, and her name will remain on the Nov. 8 ballot, according to the Quorum Report. If Dukes beats Republican Gabriel Nila, her post-election resignation will mean Gov. Greg Abbott will have to call a special election to fill her seat, the site reported.
Dukes’ district includes parts of North and East Austin, Pflugerville and Manor.
Dukes missed almost all of the 2015 legislative session and has said her frequent absences are because of medical issues related to the August 2013 car crash, in which she was rear-ended while driving on Interstate 35.
See here and here for some background; the QR story is here if you’re a subscriber. I’ve never been a big fan of Rep. Dukes, stemming from her days as a Craddick D, so given her recent ethical issues I’m not broken up by her forthcoming departure. Her district went 76.6% to 20.1% for President Obama in 2012, and 78.4% to 19.2% for Wendy Davis over Greg Abbott in 2014, so I think it is safe to say that she will win in November. I think it’s also safe to say that there will be a lot of interest in her seat, and the special election to fill it, which I presume will take place in February or March with a runoff following, will have a full slate of mostly Democratic candidates. The Trib already has one possible candidate for this office:
Former Austin Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole, a longtime resident of East Austin, said Monday she might run for Dukes’ seat.
“This morning I have received an incredible outpouring of support and encouragement from community leaders and my family,” Cole, a Democrat, said in a statement. “It is with their support that I am seriously considering running to House District 46.”
I don’t know Austin local politics well enough to have an opinion on that, but I’m sure I’ll be hearing plenty about all the hopefuls for HD46. For now, let’s just hope for a good outcome. All that said, I wish Rep. Dukes well in whatever comes next for her. The Austin Chronicle, which mentions a few other possible candidates, has more.