Former mayor pro tem Sheryl Cole considers running for HD 46 as Rep. Dawnna Dukes announces retirement

Sarah Philips

In the wake of State Representative Dawnna Dukes announcing her retirement from the Legislature, former mayor pro tem Sheryl Cole announced hours later Monday that she is considering running for the empty seat.

“Today, Representative Dawnna Dukes announced her intention to retire from the State Legislature,” Cole wrote in a statement. “This morning I have received an incredible outpouring of support and encouragement from community leaders and my family. It is with their support that I am seriously considering running to House District 46.”

Cole was the first African-American woman elected to an at-large position on the Austin City Council and served as the mayor pro tem from January 2011 to January 2015.

Annie’s List, a PAC devoted to supporting progressive women in Texas elections, sent out a release immediately following Cole’s statement advocating for the seat to be filled by a woman. 

“We join progressive allies in working quickly to support voters of House District 46 as they prepare for new leadership,” Annie’s List executive director Patsy Woods Martin said in the statement. “With the potential for a special election to bring a new champion to the Legislature in the middle of Session, we support the need for a leader with a proven track record to quickly join Democratic colleagues in holding the line for quality public education for our kids, women’s health, earned equal pay and more.”

Dukes is currently under criminal investigation for her use of state funds, but cited medical complications as the reason for her retirement. According to the Austin-American Statesman, Dukes missed nearly all of the 2015 Legislative Session because of injuries sustained during a car crash. 

“This has been a very difficult decision to make,” Dukes said in the statement. “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. I must take the time to focus all of my energy to heal and continue to provide for my young daughter and extended family.”

Her Republican opponent, Gabriel Nila, called for her resignation before the election. However, Dukes will not resign until Jan. 10. This means Governor Greg Abbott may have to call for a special election if she wins reelection.