Longtime Texas Democratic Lawmaker to Resign Amid Ethics Questions
Texas State District 46 Representative Dawnna Dukes announced Monday that she will step down in January of 2017 due to medical reasons, which could spark a special election costing tax payers an estimated $200,000.
Dukes has represented East Austin and northeastern Travis County for 22 years. In 2013, she was rear-ended by an 18-wheeler while driving on I-35. Due to her injuries, she was largely absent from the 2015 legislative session.
The Austin American-Statesman reports that Dukes plans to allow her current term in office to expire rather than resign immediately. This will allow her to collect an extra $3,220 per year in state retirement benefits, bringing the total amount $76,000.
Dukes' name will still appear on the November 8 general election ballot. If she defeats republican candidate Gabriel Nila, her seat will become vacant on January 10, prompting a special election in spring.
Because no other elections are scheduled for spring in Travis County, a special election could cost tax payers nearly $200,000, Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir told the Statesman.
Dukes' opponent, Republican Gabriel Nila, says Dukes should resign immediately, citing a criminal investigation into her alleged use of public resources for personal purposes.
KXAN reports that the Texas Rangers handed over the results of their investigation of the allegations to the Travis County District Attorney's Public Integrity Unit. Those findings were still under review Monday.
The investigation centered around claims that members of Dukes' taxpayer-funded staff ran private errands for her and put in hours at a local charity unrelated to Duke's official duties.
Investigators presented as evidence a text message to a staffer who was reportedly given state money for fuel to drive Dukes' daughter to and from school and run other personal errands, the Statesman reported. The staffer was reportedly living rent-free in Dukes' home at the time, and investigators say she may have received a raise as a reward for running errands.
As for the charity - the African American Community Heritage Festival, which she co-founded - Dukes argues that it benefits the community, validating a directive that employees work on festival projects on state time.
Travis County Democratic Party Chairman Vincent Harding told KXAN he hopes district voters will vote straight Democratic despite Dukes' legal troubles and intention to resign in order to keep the seat in Democratic hands.