Rick Cofer ends bid for Travis County Democratic Party chairman

Longtime Democratic Party activist Rick Cofer announced Wednesday night that he is ending his campaign to become chairman of the Travis County Democratic Party to make room for “strong female candidates” for the post.

“I have absolutely loved running for this position, and would’ve loved to serve you in this role,” Cofer said in a statement to supporters and friends, “but the very best thing I can do for our party is to step aside for incredible women leaders.”

Cofer would not reveal the names of the replacement candidates he had in mind. But he said Wednesday night that an announcement was imminent.

Cofer’s campaign for the unpaid post had quickly followed Chairman Vincent Harding’s announcement at the end of last month that he would not seek re-election, citing in part recent family health woes. Harding said he would remain in the role until his two-year term ends in June 2018.

Local party chairs recruit candidates to run for elected office, spearhead party fundraising efforts, seek out volunteers to help with campaigns and sometimes serve as the voice of the party. On Sunday evening, for instance, Harding released a statement after the local party approved a resolution calling for greater police accountability in the city’s pending contract with the police union.

Earlier this year, Harding faced pushback within the party after he staved off an effort to pressure Austin state Rep. Dawnna Dukes to resign. At the time Dukes faced corruption charges, but prosecutors dropped those charges this week.

Cofer, an attorney at the Travis County Attorney’s Office who has been highly active in local politics, had a long list of prominent supporters that included Austin’s former mayor and current state Sen. Kirk Watson, four of the five state House Democrats who represent Travis County, District Attorney Margaret Moore, Sheriff Sally Hernandez and several Austin City Council and Travis County Commissioners Court members.

Hernandez, reached Wednesday, said she was disappointed that Cofer was pulling out of the race. Hernandez said she has a lot of respect for him.

“I hate that he’s stepping down and that he’s not running because I believe that Rick would be an outstanding party chair for Travis County,” she said. “He’s been very committed to Democratic politics. He’s done so much for so many different candidates, and he’s done a lot for the party.”

Hernandez echoed Cofer in saying that she’d like to see a strong female candidate step up but also didn’t offer any names.

“Let’s do everything we can do for the future of our party,” Cofer wrote to conclude the statement. “And let’s do everything possible to elect the future progressive leaders of Texas. We can turn Texas blue, and we will do it together.”

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