Austin mayor pro tem continues to campaign despite Rep. Dawnna Dukes’ return

Lisa Dreher

Former Austin mayor pro tem and Democrat Sheryl Cole said she will continue campaigning for House District 46 Tuesday afternoon despite Rep. Dawnna Dukes returning to her seat.

“I’m telling you that I’m all in whether there’s a special election or it is in the Democratic primary,”  Cole said.

Cole updated the community and media of her intentions to keep campaigning during a press conference at Sam’s BBQ in East Austin.

Dukes confirmed to the Texas Tribune in an email Monday she would be present today when the state Legislature reconvenes, although in September she announced plans to retire when it did.

Dukes in September said she would step down for medical reasons.

“My doctors gave me the green light and I decided to ensure District 46 had experienced representation starting on Opening Day,” Dukes said in the email.

On Tuesday Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore will meet with Texas Rangers over an investigation of Dukes’ use of campaign funds and staff. Moore will announce Saturday whether to indict Dukes.

Cole was asked about Dukes remaining for a 12th term and how the ethics case affects her views of Dukes and her time in session.

“I don't have a particular comment on [the reversal] other than it speaks for itself,” Cole said. “I think that there’s clearly a consensus in the community for a fresh start.”

A special election must be called by Gov. Greg Abbott once he receives a resignation letter by Dukes, but Cole and other potential candidates said they will remain on the invisible campaign trail.

The heavily democratic HD46 includes North and East Austin, Pflugerville and Manor. Democrats Jose “Chito” Vela III and Nnamdi Orakwue and Republican Gabriel Nila continue campaigning.

Independent Adam Reposa and Libertarian Kevin Ludlow before Dukes’s decision to return said they would run in a special election. Vela will kick off his campaign Thursday evening at the Tres Amigos Restaurant.

Cole said she will run in a Democratic primary in 2018, carrying over her current platform to fight the state for more public education funding and affordable housing within her district.

Cole was the first African American at Austin City Council to hold an at-large position as its mayor pro tem.

“I live in the district and I wish that representative Dukes had kept her word, but since she is not going to I will be with Sheryl until the fight’s done,” Cole’s campaign manager André Treiber said.
Cole has campaigned to alleviate Austin’s homeless problem by increasing opportunities for affordable housing. As a former Parent Teacher Association president, Cole also said Texas’ recapture system, where high-property value school districts send money to the state to be redistributed among poorer ones, relies too much on taxpayers to fund public education.