Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt is siding against longtime state Rep. Dawnna Dukes in the Democratic primary, announcing Tuesday an endorsement for Dukes’ challenger Sheryl Cole.
Eckhardt, who presides over the county’s Commissioner’s Court, released a statement through Cole’s campaign, saying residents of Dukes’ House District 46 “deserve to share in the prosperity of our region.” Dukes for 24 years has represented the district that includes parts of East Austin, Pflugerville and Manor.
Eckhardt’s endorsement comes one month before the March 6 Democratic primary. In addition to Cole, those looking to unseat Dukes are Jose “Chito” Vela III, Ana Cortez, Casey L. McKinney and Warren Baker.
“Taken as a whole, Travis County households enjoy higher income, higher education and the benefits that have established Austin and Central Texas as among the top places to live in the U.S.” Eckhardt said. “Yet the hard-working families of District 46 earn less, more of its residents live in poverty and fewer achieve higher education than even the national average. Sheryl Cole will bring her laser focus to the Texas House to ensure that the people of District 46 get their fair share of the opportunity they helped build.”
Cole previously received endorsements from Austin Democrats state Sen. Kirk Watson and U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett. Vela’s endorsements include Austin Young Democrats and Tejano Democrats.
A review of campaign finance reports from last month showed Cole raised $91,483 in the second half of 2017 compared to $2,250 for Dukes. Vela brought in more than $30,000.
State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, has pledged to donate $10,000 to Dukes’ campaign.
Dukes had also accrued more than $730,000 in outstanding loans, with most of it going to cover legal fees as she fended off charges of falsifying government records and abusing her office. The charges were dropped in October after the Travis County district attorney’s office acknowledged it could not prove wrongdoing.
An American-Statesman analysis showed at least 23 donors who had given money to Dukes’ campaigns within the past decade have instead donated about $9,000 to Cole since the start of 2017.
Dukes’ campaign website lists no endorsements; her campaign manager did not immediately return a call for comment Tuesday evening.