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Dawnna Dukes arrives late to House chambers, is sworn in to 12th term

Following through on her surprising last-minute decision to renege on her promise to leave office, state Rep. Dawnna Dukes on Tuesday arrived a few minutes late to the Texas House chambers for the first day of the 2017 legislative session and took the oath of office.

Facing a criminal investigation and saying she was too ill to serve, the Austin Democrat announced in September she would step down at the end of her 11th term. That would have created a vacancy to be filled by a special election during the 2017 session, and candidates had already lined up to replace her.

Instead, she changed her mind days before the session began, sending shockwaves through the political community, upending the plans of those who had planned to run for her seat and adding a new twist to the pending criminal investigation against her.

Speaking to reporters after being sworn in, Dukes said she decided to come back because constituents had urged her to continue serving and because her health had improved following complications from a 2013 car crash.

“Doctors gave me the green light, constituents, former members, present members were really encouraging me to change my mind and they were using every argument possible,” she said.

She declined to discuss the pending criminal probe, saying, “Anything concerning legal is in the process, or not, and I don’t plan on discussing it.”

Also on Tuesday, new Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore is being briefed by the Texas Rangers on the case against Dukes, who is accused of misusing legislative personnel and campaign money.

Moore has said she will decide whether to seek an indictment against Dukes following the briefing.

Former Austin City Council Member Sheryl Cole, who planned to run in the special election to replace Dukes, will hold a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

Correction: Sheryl Cole was misidentified as a former mayor of Austin. She was mayor pro-tem.

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