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Vincent Harding

Justin Nelson to run against Paxton

About time we got an official candidate for this race.

Justin Nelson

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is getting his first Democratic opponent for re-election.

Attorney Justin Nelson is entering the race to be the state’s top lawyer with just over a month until the candidate filing deadline for the 2018 primaries.

“Justice is for all. Nobody is above the law,” Nelson said in a news release. “Texans can do better than our indicted Attorney General who is charged with criminal fraud.”

Paxton, who is seeking a second term, has been under indictment for most of his current term, fighting securities fraud charges stemming from allegations before his time as attorney general. Those legal troubles have made him a top target for Democrats in 2018, despite the void of challengers until now.

Nelson, 42, is a partner specializing in major civil litigation at the Houston law firm Susman Godfrey LLP and has been named a Texas Super Lawyer by Thomson Reuters. A graduate of Yale University and Columbia Law School, he clerked for former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and for Harvie Wilkinson, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.

Nelson lives in Austin, where he is an adjunct professor at the University of Texas School of Law.

Nelson is not entirely new to politics. He is the founder and former president of One Nation One Vote, a group that is pushing to elect the president by popular vote. The issue has been a hot topic in the wake of the 2016 election, when Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College but lost to her in the popular vote.

I’ve been waiting for someone to announce a candidacy. You might win the lottery and get to run against a convicted felon. I knew someone would eventually run – I’d heard about a possible candidate who in retrospect probably was Justin Nelson several months ago – it was just a matter of time. Nelson may yet have company in the primary from outgoing Travis County Democratic Party Chair Vincent Harding, and there had been another potential candidate, Lubbock attorney John Gibson, who has decided to endorse Nelson instead. Nelson’s campaign webpage is here – I don’t see a link for a Facebook page yet – though it’s pretty bare bones right now. If nothing else, the broad themes of his campaign are already pretty clear. The Chron has more.

Who’s in to succeed Rep. Dawnna Dukes?

There are three confirmed candidates already to succeed Rep. Dawnna Dukes when she steps down next month.

Rep. Dawnna Dukes

Despite announcing her plan six weeks earlier to resign instead of serving another term, state Rep. Dawnna Dukes handily won re-election earlier this month.

Dukes, an Austin Democrat, abruptly announced her plan to retire in late September, citing health issues related to a 2013 car accident and concerns over caring for her 9-year-old daughter. Her announcement came amid an ongoing investigation by the Travis County District Attorney’s office into Duke’s alleged misuse of staff and government funds. Prosecutors were ready to ask a grand jury to indict Dukes just before she announced her retirement, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

Despite the cloud over her office, Dukes, who has served in the House since 1994, earned about 70 percent of the vote against Republican challenger Gabriel Nila and two minor-party candidates earlier this month. Dukes’ House District 46 includes parts of Austin, Pflugerville and Manor.

Dukes has said her resignation will take effect on Jan. 10, the opening day of the 2017 legislative session. Gov. Greg Abbott has 20 days from receiving Dukes’ letter of resignation to announce the date of a special election to fill the seat, according to the Governor’s office.

Here are the Texans who have openly discussed running in the special election:

Gabriel Nila

The 44-year-old has lived in the district since 2012 and teaches at-risk youths in the area. He ran as a Republican against Dukes in the November election, earning around 19 percent of the vote. It was his first bid for public office.

Sheryl Cole

The 52-year-old former Austin mayor pro tem and city councilwoman is a longtime resident of East Austin. She and her husband, Kevin Cole, have three boys.

Jose “Chito” Vela III

The 42-year-old attorney has lived in the district for 12 years and sits on the city of Austin’s Planning Commission. He is the former board chair of the Workers Defense Project, a law firm dedicated to serving immigrants.

Vincent Harding

The 29-year-old is current chairman of the Travis County Democratic Party. He is also a local attorney and graduate of the University of Texas School of Law.

Kevin Ludlow

Ludlow ran as a Libertarian against Dukes in the general election and came in third, drawing 6 percent of the vote. He also ran against Dukes in 2014. The 37-year-old is a University of Texas at Austin alumni who operates a software firm and has lived in Austin for 19 years.

See here for the background. Cole and Vela are Democrats, and they along with Nila all confirmed that they were running. Harding and Ludlow were both maybes. One Democrat who had previously expressed an interest, Joe Deshotel, said he was out. A Green Party candidate who had been on the ballot in November couldn’t be reached for comment in the story. I feel confident saying the final list of candidates will be longer than three. Given that Abbott will have till January 30 to call for the special election, I will assume it will happen in early to mid-March, with a runoff in early April. That will give whoever wins time to cast some important votes, but not to do much else.

First contenders line up for HD46

There will be more.

Rep. Dawnna Dukes

The race to replace longtime Austin state Rep. Dawnna Dukes got underway hours after her Monday morning announcement that she will resign effective Jan. 10.

First out of the gate was former Austin Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole, who issued a statement saying she is “seriously considering running.”

Joe Deshotel, son of state Rep. Joe Deshotel, D-Beaumont, said it is more likely than not that he will join the race.

Travis County Democratic Party Chairman Vincent Harding said he will also consider running, once the Nov. 8 election is over.

Several others are considering running but haven’t made public statements about the race.

[…]

Cole, an attorney, was the first African-American woman elected to the Austin City Council, serving from 2006 to 2015 before losing a bid for mayor in 2014.

“I would be grateful for the community’s support in this endeavor and I hope I am honored to serve this district,” she said. “I certainly want to thank Dawnna for her service.”

Deshotel, who is director of community engagement for RideAustin, said he is “most definitely, very, very strongly considering” a run.

“Truthfully, I’m hoping other people get in the race,” Deshotel said. “I don’t think a 20-year seat should be someone walking in without a challenger.”

Harding said he is focused on ensuring Democrats, including Dukes, win on Nov. 8 and will evaluate whether he should run after the election.

See here for the background. I feel confident saying we will hear from more people, most likely after the November election when we’ll be able to focus on anything after that. I can add that Joe Deshotel has been a contributor to the Burnt Orange Report; you can see all his writing on that site here. In the meantime, I think Harding has the right idea about this one. There will be plenty of time to focus on this election after we do what we need to do for the November election.