You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks


Welcome to

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on

Dawnna Dukes should resign immediately, a would-be replacement says

Jose “Chito” Vela III, who is hoping to replace retiring state Rep. Dawnna Dukes, said Wednesday that she should step down immediately, rather than waiting until January and leaving her district without a representative for key parts of the next legislative session.

“The sooner she is out, the sooner someone can get in there and get on the floor and fight for Texas Democratic values,” said Vela, 42, an attorney and member of the Austin Planning Commission. “Every vote counts.”

Dukes, an Austin Democrat, announced in September that she will decline to be sworn in for a 12th term when the Legislature reconvenes Jan. 10. Dukes cited medical complications stemming from a 2013 car crash as the reason for her departure, but her announcement came soon after Texas Rangers completed an investigation into her alleged misuse of legislative staff and campaign money.

Dukes’ announcement came after a deadline to replace her on the Nov. 8 ballot. She won with 70.3 percent of the vote despite promising not to serve.

READ: Why AISD has little to show for Dawnna Dukes’ $1 million contract

After Dukes steps down, state law instructs the governor to call a special election. Gov. Greg Abbott can schedule the election until as late as two months after her resignation from the heavily Democratic seat.

That would mean Dukes’ district — which includes parts of North Austin, East Austin, Pflugerville and Manor — wouldn’t have a voice for much of the negotiations over the state budget, and her replacement will miss key deadlines for filing and advancing legislation.

Dukes didn’t respond to an interview request but responded to Vela’s comments in a Facebook post.

“With all due respect Sir, uninformed & an incorrect assessment on timeline. Democrats know the factual dates. Unpleasant campaign tactic,” she wrote.

STATESMAN INVESTIGATION: Dawnna Dukes’ activities outside Legislature raise questions

There are reasons Dukes might want to delay her resignation.

By allowing her current term to expire rather than resigning immediately, Dukes will make an extra $3,220 per year in retirement benefits from the state because serving any amount of time in January counts as a full year when calculating pension benefits.

Dukes will make $74,060 per year in retirement, a substantial bump from the $41,000 she’s making over two years in her current term.

RELATED: Amid probe, Dawnna Dukes flew in lawyer before announcing retirement

Additionally, delaying her resignation might give Dukes an extra bargaining chip in attempting to cut a deal with prosecutors, who could require her to step down immediately or force her to put her promise to step down in writing. As of now, there is nothing stopping Dukes from reneging on her pledge to step down and getting sworn in on Jan. 10.

Dukes’ lawyer, Michael Heiskell of Fort Worth, has said previously that he is working to ensure she isn’t indicted and negotiating with prosecutors. Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg has said prosecutors will take Dukes’ planned resignation into account when handling the case, although it will not be “determinative.”

Gregg Cox, who leads the district attorney office’s Public Integrity Unit, said Wednesday that prosecutors are still reviewing the case.

STATESMAN INVESTIGATION: Dawnna Dukes’ campaign spending raises questions

Candidates are already lining up to replace her in a special election. Democrat Sheryl Cole, a former Austin mayor pro tem, said she is planning to run, and Travis County Democratic Party Chairman Vincent Harding said he is considering running.

Cole said Dukes has the right to complete her term.

“Dawnna was elected with over 70 percent of the vote and she has made her intentions clear, and the Texas Constitution allows her to serve until she can’t fulfill her duties,” Cole said. “I stand ready. I am going to run and I’m looking forward to it, but the rules are the rules.”

NEWS STRAIGHT TO YOUR INBOX: Click here to get our Morning Headlines email

Republican Gabriel Nila and Libertarian Kevin Ludlow, who ran unsuccessfully against Dukes in November, have said they plan to run in the special election also.

Adam Reposa, an attorney and political provocateur, said he will run as an independent candidate.

There are no primaries in special elections. Instead, the top two finishers will compete in a runoff, unless one candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote and wins outright.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Texas News & Politics

Is UT’s campus site in Houston a dump? Chancellor says no.
Is UT’s campus site in Houston a dump? Chancellor says no.

UT Chancellor Bill McRaven, left, and board Chairman Paul Foster at a July 2016 regents’ meeting State Sen. John Whitmire is plenty upset with University of Texas System officials for purchasing more than 300 acres in Houston for a new campus. His ire is just one of many challenges facing system Chancellor Bill McRaven and Board of Regents Chairman...
Patchy fog, drizzle possible for morning commute; sunshine likely in afternoon
Patchy fog, drizzle possible for morning commute; sunshine likely in afternoon

Tuesday forecast for Austin: Forecasters are calling for patchy drizzle and fog in the Austin area during the morning commute on Tuesday. According to the National Weather Service, skies should clear up around 9 a.m., but roads could still be a little wet in isolated areas. The temperature at Camp Mabry was recorded at 70 degrees around 6 a.m., and...
Austin school board bans suspensions for district’s youngest students
Austin school board bans suspensions for district’s youngest students

The Austin school board Monday night unanimously approved a ban on suspensions for its youngest learners. The policy prohibits discretionary home suspensions, expulsions or alternative disciplinary programs for students in prekindergarten through second grade, except in cases required by the state’s education code (such as felonies or being a...
Stranger grabbed, dragged woman walking to parked car near ACC campus, college says
Stranger grabbed, dragged woman walking to parked car near ACC campus, college says

A stranger grabbed a woman from behind near Austin Community College’s campus in Southeast Austin and dragged her toward a red pickup truck before she was able to run away, according to an alert from the college. This happened around 10 p.m. on Feb. 15 as the woman was walking to her parked car on Grove Boulevard, ACC said. The man walked...
Photo appears to show veteran lying on ground while waiting at North Carolina VA
Photo appears to show veteran lying on ground while waiting at North Carolina VA

A couple posted photos on Facebook and said veterans waited for hours in pain inside the Durham VA Medical Center. Stephen McMenamin, a former U.S. Marine, was there for treatment, and said his wife took the pictures because she "found it upsetting." McMenamin said a veteran who was lying on the ground was using his bag of medication for...
More Stories