Rep. Dawnna Dukes’ challengers nab Democratic support in HD 46 primary


Incumbent state Rep. Dawnna Dukes has raised just $2,250 in contributions since last summer.

Challenger Sheryl Cole has raised $104,000 in same time frame; Jose “Chito” Vela raised $36,000.

With less than a month to go before the March 6 Democratic primary, 12-term incumbent state Rep. Dawnna Dukes has a campaign that’s deep in debt and short on buzz while her challengers gain ground among Democratic groups in the House District 46 race.

Sheryl Cole, a former Austin City Council member, has gotten endorsements from notable Austin Democrats including state Sen. Kirk Watson, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett and most recently Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt.

Eckhardt’s endorsement was the subject of a press release flaunted by Cole’s campaign on Tuesday.

“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” in Austin, Eckhardt said in a statement.

A day later, the Jose “Chito” Vela III campaign sent out a statement of its own, labeling the immigration lawyer a champion for the district’s “hard-working folks.” It revealed that in the Jan. 1 to Jan. 25 reporting period, Vela garnered 63 donations of $100 or less compared to seven for Cole. Vela has announced endorsements from the Austin Tejano Democrats, Austin Young Democrats, and Stonewall Democrats of Austin.

Since the middle of last year, Cole has raised $103,802 compared with $35,912 for Vela.

“I’m not the hand-picked candidate of those big dollar donors who think they can buy any House District in Travis County, but I am humbled by the outpouring of support we’ve earned from the hard-working folks who live in House District 46,” Vela said in the statement.

In all, five Democrats have lined up to oppose Dukes, who for the past 24 years has served the district that includes parts of East Austin, Pflugerville and Manor.

In response to questions from the American-Statesman, the candidates outlined what they would advocate if elected. The proposals include alleviating East Austin gentrification, legalizing marijuana to fund public education and working more closely with constituents.

Dukes, 54, declined to participate. She has received just $2,250 in political donations since the middle of last year. Dukes last month told the Statesman that media coverage of her indictment on corruption charges “caused irreparable harm to my financial relationships and business health.” Her campaign at the time was $730,000 in debt, most of it stemming from legal bills to fend off accusations that Dukes falsified work travel vouchers.

The case crumbled ahead of a fall trial with prosecutors acknowledging they could not prove any wrongdoing.

A more recent filing from Monday reported the campaign’s debt is $409,825.

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