Dukes challenger leaves Democratic race, will run as independent

After state Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, revealed numerous endorsements last week, one primary challenger said Monday that he’s leaving the Democratic race to run as an independent in 2018.

“This past week many important Democrats endorsed Rep. Dawnna Dukes for re-election in 2018,” Nnamdi Orakwue said in a statement. “As a candidate, this is disappointing, but as a voter and lifelong Democrat, this is disturbing.”

Dukes’ supporters include 17 Democratic members of the Texas Legislature, four members of Congress, two Travis County officials and her predecessor, former Rep. Wilhelmina Delco, D-Austin.

Orakwue, a tech entrepreneur, said the endorsements show high-profile Democrats are taking voters for granted.

“For party officials to encourage us, the voters of the only majority minority district in the county, to take a chance on a 3rd consecutive legislative session of disenfranchisement is wrong,” he said. “In my view, these endorsements suggest that the party is, in some significant measure, taking the interests of mostly black and brown voters for granted. This is unacceptable.”

Dukes drew several primary challengers after the Travis County district attorney’s office launched a criminal corruption investigation against her last year and Dukes said she would step down, then changed her mind.

The case against Dukes fell apart, though, because of shoddy evidence and after a key witness said the lawmaker did not violate any rules by being compensated for days she did state business in Austin that was not at the Capitol.

Dukes also has been criticized for missing numerous days of work while the Legislature was in session. She has explained that she was recovering from severe injuries she suffered in a 2013 crash that left Dukes with spinal and neck injuries.

She disclosed during a Nov. 7 interview with Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith that she has multiple sclerosis and myasthenia gravis.

“I am healthy enough to serve,” she later told Smith. “I’m wearing my high heels.”

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