Incumbent Dawnna Dukes lags as rivals raise funds in House District 46


Dukes said she has a plan despite little spending and little fundraising.

Vela said he expects a runoff, which would pit the top two vote-getters in a May 22 election.

While her two biggest challengers continue to raise and spend money in the final countdown to the Democratic primary election, state Rep. Dawnna Dukes continues to do little of both.

Dukes brought in $10,000 and spent about $12,000, according to a campaign finance report that covers a 30-day period that ended Saturday. The report is in line with previous ones from this election season that revealed little activity from Dukes, a 12-term lawmaker who has blamed fundraising shortcomings on her 2017 criminal corruption case in Travis County. Dukes said banking institutions refused to work with her after she was indicted in connection to allegations that she falsified travel vouchers and used her legislative staff for personal reasons.

All charges against Dukes were dropped in October 2017.

“I have a plan and my plan is still in action,” Dukes said Wednesday.

The report showed Dukes’ campaign has a loan balance of $831,321, with most of it to cover legal fees related to the corruption charges, she said.

Meanwhile, two of her opponents in the House District 46 race are unloading their coffers in advance of Tuesday’s primary election. Sheryl Cole — a former Austin City Council member who has received endorsements from state Sen. Kirk Watson, Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt and U.S. Rep Lloyd Doggett — spent more than $54,000 in the latest reporting period, with much of it going toward printing expenses for promotional materials. Jose “Chito” Vela III, who said he has knocked on thousands of doors, spent more than $31,000.

READ: Challengers nab Democratic support in House District 46

As for donations, Cole raised $53,908, with $20,000 coming Saturday from Annie’s List PAC, which supports female candidates. Since last year, she has brought in $187,231. Vela received $8,183 in the recent reporting period. Through a series of smaller gifts, his donation total since last year is $46,631.

Dukes since last year has brought in only $12,250, with $5,000 coming recently from her longtime legislative friend, state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston.

“I have not seen any activity from the Dawnna Dukes campaign other than a few signs,” Vela said. “I thought that after the interview she gave to the Texas Tribune (in November at a campaign kickoff event) she was going to campaign hard. But she just never did.”

Cole said she had anticipated a “very strong battle” from Dukes, who has been absent from various forums, has declined interview requests from most media outlets and did not show up to an endorsement meeting with the Austin Chronicle, the paper reported.

“It’s fair to say I expected more activity,” Cole said.

Three other candidates — Warren Baker, Casey L. McKinney and Ana Cortez — are running small-budget campaigns, records show. But Cortez, a Manor school trustee, has received some local political backing, pulling in endorsements from Manor Mayor Rita Jonse and Pflugerville Mayor Victor Gonzalez.

“It is a blessing to have the support of two of the three mayors in the district,” Cortez said in a statement.

The heavily Democratic House District 46 includes most of Manor, parts of Pflugerville and East Austin. The winner of the primary will face Republican Gabriel Nila in the November general election.

If no candidate emerges with more than 50 percent of the vote in the March 6 primary, there will be a runoff between the two who get the most votes. The runoff election would be May 22.

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