Dawnna Dukes re-elected to serve House District 46, despite intent to resign

Cassi Pollock

With 70.31 percent of the early vote, Democrat Rep. Dawnna Dukes secured her 12th term to serve House District 46 Tuesday night, despite the representative’s intent to resign before the state’s Legislature convenes in 2017.

Dukes nudged out a former 2014 opponent, Libertarian Kevin Ludlow, as well as Green and Republican Party challengers, Adam Greely and Gabriel Nila.

The Democrat-leaning district includes parts of east Austin as well as Pflugerville and Manor. 

Dukes’ victory comes on the heels of her September announcement that she intended to resign from her elected seat in January 2017 due to health concerns from a 2013 car accident. In recent months, an investigation regarding Dukes’ use of taxpayer dollars for nongovernmental purposes has surrounded the Democrat. Dukes has also missed most of the 84th Texas Legislature in 2015, citing the same health issues that backed her retirement announcement.

The Daily Texan reported Monday night that former Austin City Council member Sheryl Cole, a Democrat, confirmed her plan to run for Dukes’ seat should the position become vacant.

“I do plan to run for the seat once there’s a [special] election called,” Cole told The Daily Texan. Cole said she planned to release a statement to the public following Election Day results. Cole first expressed interest in running for the house district seat in September after Dukes’ announcement, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

If Dukes resigns, it becomes effective Jan. 10, and the seat for House District 46 will remain empty until Texas Gov. Greg Abbott calls a special election to fill the seat.

Nila, the Republican from east Austin who came second behind Dukes, said in an interview with The Daily Texan prior to Tuesday night’s election his campaign was looking at the possibility of running during a special election, should the possibility arise. 

“Right now,” Nila said, “We are looking at this race. But we aren’t giving up, and if a [special election] does happen, we are prepared for the next steps.” 

Chairman of the Travis County Democratic Party Vincent Harding, told The Daily Texan Tuesday night he was also examining the possibility of running for the house district seat. 

“I will strongly consider running,” Harding said, adding it’s been his focus to run the county’s Democratic Party. “Any opportunity to serve and help make people’s lives better is something I’m going to pray about and talk to my wife about.”

Andy Hogue, the Travis County Republican Party communications director, said he thought most people just saw Dukes, the Democrat name on the ticket, and voted for that party. 

“If you look at it, House District 46 won’t have anybody if [Dukes] retires and if they have a special election,” Hogue said, adding a special election might not happen until late March or April. 

Dukes’ office did not respond to The Daily Texan’s multiple requests for comment.

The race was reported with 67.74 percent of precincts reported at press time.