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Texas state Rep. Dawnna Dukes' campaign is more than $700,000 in debt after her legal saga

Between the two accounts state Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, has on file with the Texas Ethics Commission, the embattled incumbent owes more than $737,000.

State Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, in conversation with Evan Smith at a Texas Tribune event on Nov 7, 2017. 

The re-election campaign of state Rep. Dawnna Dukes, the Austin Democrat who was cleared in October of criminal corruption charges, is deeply in debt after her expensive legal battle.

Dukes, a 12-term Texas lawmaker, raised just $2,250 in the second half of 2017, campaign finance records show. That’s well below the amounts raised by primary opponents Sheryl Cole, a former Austin city council member, and Chito Vela, an immigration attorney. Cole raised $91,000 over the same period, while Vela brought in about $30,000, records show.

Between the two accounts Dukes has on file with the Texas Ethics Commission, the embattled incumbent has outstanding loans of more than $737,000.

Dukes, who owns a consulting firm, said in a statement to the Austin American-Statesman that her loans were the result of hefty attorneys’ fees and a loss of business she faced after being indicted on corruption charges, which were later dropped.

“Since January 2016, my public reputation was barraged intensely in the court of public domain which instigated improperly investigated and inaccurate accusations in the criminal courts,” she said.

“I knew in order to be competitive I could not depend in short frame on traditional campaign means denied me by the false accusations and baseless charges from which I had to defend myself,” she added.

The political wings of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association and HillCo Partners, a lobbying firm, each gave Dukes $1,000, records show. Michael Lofton, founder and chief executive of the African American Youth Harvest Foundation, donated $250 to Dukes.

The rest of the funds raised by Dukes took the form of outstanding loans. Dukes pledged to donate her campaign $210,000, while the campaign of another Democratic state Representative, Garnet Coleman of Houston, pledged $10,000.

Disclosure: HillCo Partners and the Texas Trial Lawyers Association have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors is available here.

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