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Sheryl Cole isn’t backing down from bid to replace Rep. Dawnna Dukes

Former Austin Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole, who is hoping to replace state Rep. Dawnna Dukes in the Legislature, does not appear to be backing down from her plans despite Dukes’ last-minute decision to renege on a promise to step down when the Legislature reconvenes on Tuesday.

Cole, a Democrat, on Tuesday released her fundraising totals and a list of high-profile endorsements and is holding a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

“We’ve received overwhelming support in a short period of time. It’s a sign, that has been shared with me time and again, of the community’s strong desire for a fresh start. We will stand united in the face of attacks on our children’s education, equality of opportunity, and our civil liberties,” Cole said in a statement.

Dukes is facing a criminal investigation over alleged misuse of legislative staff and campaign money. If she had left office as promised, it would have triggered a special election in the spring.

Cole had previously been deferential to Dukes’ plans, announced in September, to delay stepping down from her post once her current term expires, rather than leaving office immediately. When other House District 46 hopefuls had called on Dukes to resign immediately, rather than wait until her term expires, Cole declined to do so.

But now that Dukes has said she is reversing course, Cole is signaling that she will not be going away.

“It’s not about one person, it’s about the people. Too much is at stake. It is time for a fresh start,” Cole said.

Cole’s campaign-in-waiting has raised $60,000 with another $29,000 pledged, according to a press release. She listed endorsements from U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, state Sen. Kirk Watson and other high-profile Austin-area Democrats.

Other would-be candidates for Dukes’ seat, which covers parts of North Austin, East Austin, Manor and Pflugerville, include Democrats Jose “Chito” Vela III and Nnamdi Orakwue, Republican Gabriel Nila, Libertarian Kevin Ludlow and independent Adam Reposa.

Dukes in September said she was planning to step down due to medical issues related to a 2013 car crash. The announcement, however, came days after the Texas Rangers delivered their criminal investigation of Dukes to Travis County prosecutors. She has been accused of directing campaign staff to do personal work on her behalf. An American-Statesman investigation also found questionable campaign spending.

New Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore said she will be receiving a briefing on the case from the Rangers on Tuesday and will then decide whether to seek an indictment.

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