The two Democrats still vying to replace a longtime Austin-area state representative share many similarities. Attorneys Jose "Chito" Vela and Sheryl Cole are actively engaged in issues affecting the minority communities they'd represent if elected to Texas House District 46.
Cole was an Austin City Council members for years, most recently as mayor pro tem. Vela too has served the city of Austin as a planning commissioner.
Vela finished first in the March Democratic primary, ahead of Cole, by just 209 votes. The pair is headed to a May 22 runoff. State Rep. Dawnna Dukes, who has held the seat for 22 years, finished in third. The winner of the Democratic runoff will face Republican Gabriel Nila in November's general election.
Dukes stayed in the headlines toward the end of her tenure for missing several key votes and floor debates, incurring ethics violations and an indictment for allegedly abusing public office. The Travis County district attorney ultimately dropped the charges.
It's a record that prompts Vela and Cole to tout, as part of their campaign pitch, that they'll "show up" if they ultimately win the seat in November.
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In an interview with The Texas Tribune in November, Dukes talked about the controversies; that fellow Democrats in the House and some members of the media, "dressed like ninjas," were out to get her.
Despite outraising Vela, Cole finished second in March – a result she's quick to say resulted from a split vote among the African-Americans on the ballot, that included Dukes.
Find out where they stand on legalizing marijuana, education spending and "media ninjas," in our latest Split Decision campaign debate series.
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