Austin Democratic state Rep. Dawnna Dukes announced she’s stepping down from the legislature.
Her ostensible reason for leaving is health issues, stemming from a serious car crash she suffered in 2013. (“State Rep. Ruth McClendon-Jones, D-San Antonio, said Dukes is resting at home now after being hospitalized for several hours after the incident. She said Dukes’ vehicle was rear-ended by a large truck while stuck in traffic.” While it does sound serious, I do note that “serious injuries” from a car crash usually require more than “a few hours” in the hospital.)
But her “health-related” retirement “comes as the Travis County District Attorney’s office is conducting a criminal investigation into her alleged misuse of staff and government funds”:
Former staff members accused Dukes of seeking reimbursement from the state for travel payments she was not entitled to. In February, The Texas Tribune reported that the state auditor’s office was investigating her use of state workers on a personal project Dukes oversaw, the African American Heritage Festival. The auditors referred the case to Travis County prosecutors.
Then, in April, state officials said the Texas Rangers had joined the Travis County District Attorney’s office criminal probe. A spokesman for the Rangers, Tom Vinger, said Monday their investigation is complete and has been presented to the Travis County District Attorney’s office.
“In her resignation statement, [Dukes] said she was ‘content that two signature community programs I initiated enriched my beloved District 46 and Austin community.’ It does sound like there was some sort of enrichment going on.
Chanman’s Musings has some thoughts on her resignation pay bump.
While Dukes is stepping down and has been absent from the legislature for more than a year, her name will still be on the ballot in November, which means that Gov. Greg Abbott will have to call a special election next year unless Republican challenger Gabriel Nila beats her in November. Which may be difficult, as the district is so heavily Democratic. If he loses, at least three Democrats (Austin Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole, Joe Deshotel (son of state Rep. Joe Deshotel), and Travis County Democratic Party Chairman Vincent Harding) have said they’re considering running.