Austin Democrats line up to replace Dawnna Dukes in Texas House


The race to replace longtime Austin state Rep. Dawnna Dukes got underway hours after her Monday morning announcement that she will resign effective Jan. 10.

First out of the gate was former Austin Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole, who issued a statement saying she is “seriously considering running.”

Joe Deshotel, son of state Rep. Joe Deshotel, D-Beaumont, said it is more likely than not that he will join the race.

Travis County Democratic Party Chairman Vincent Harding said he will also consider running, once the Nov. 8 election is over.

Several others are considering running but haven’t made public statements about the race.

Dukes, who is facing a criminal investigation for alleged misuse of state resources, said she will leave office after allowing her current term to expire due to medical issues related to an August 2013 car crash.

It’s too late for Democrats to remove her name from the ballot for the Nov. 8 general election, in which Dukes faces Republican Gabriel Nila. Because the district is heavily Democratic, Dukes is expected to win even though she won’t serve. The seat will then be vacant from Jan. 10 until a special election is called, likely in the spring.

Turnout will likely be sparse, which sets a bar low for the minimum amount of money candidates need to be competitive in the race, said Mark Littlefield, an Austin lobbyist and political consultant. The election probably will be decided by door-knocking and small-time politicking, not by raking in major donations.

“With these small special elections, this is really going to be hand-to-hand combat,” he said.

Cole, an attorney, was the first African-American woman elected to the Austin City Council, serving from 2006 to 2015 before losing a bid for mayor in 2014.

“I would be grateful for the community’s support in this endeavor and I hope I am honored to serve this district,” she said. “I certainly want to thank Dawnna for her service.”

Deshotel, who is director of community engagement for RideAustin, said he is “most definitely, very, very strongly considering” a run.

“Truthfully, I’m hoping other people get in the race,” Deshotel said. “I don’t think a 20-year seat should be someone walking in without a challenger.”

Harding said he is focused on ensuring Democrats, including Dukes, win on Nov. 8 and will evaluate whether he should run after the election.


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