2018 Primary Election Guide: Meet the candidates who will be on the ballot in Central Austin

Early voting trends show record breaking turnout.

Early voting trends show record breaking turnout.

Statewide primary elections will take place March 6. Listed below are candidates from selected positions relevant to Central Austin. Note that some candidates have had their answers or experience cut due to space, and the text may not reflect the candidates’ full opinion.


First day of early voting: Feb. 20
Last day to apply for ballot by mail: Feb. 23
Last day of early voting: March 2
Election day: March 6

Texas State Rep. 46

Casey McKinney
Experience: over 20 years working with the Democratic party

What are the top issues your district is facing?

McKinney: The stakes have been high in previous elections. But in 2018 and 2020 the stakes will be measured in human lives; in the number of immigrants who would be torn from their homes; in the number of Americans who would lose access to health care and see their rights ripped away. Everyone deserves the chance to live up to his/her God-given potential.

What are your thoughts on the growth and development within your district?

McKinney: Gentrification is a common, and divisive, topic of discussion in Dist. 46 with significant disagreement about its effects. The rising property tax rates have forced many longtime residents from their homes. Ninety percent of city foreclosures have occurred on the east side. I am adamant that the area be developed to benefit, not hurt, existing residents.

Jose “Chito” Vela

Experience: former general counsel to a Democratic state representative and worked as a Texas assistant attorney general

What are the top issues your district is facing?

Vela:  Housing affordability and access to health care are critical issues in the district. The state’s refusal to properly fund education has caused school districts to rely too heavily on property taxes, creating high property tax bills for many homeowners. And Texas’ refusal to expand Medicaid has left 900,000 working-class Texans without comprehensive health coverage that they should be receiving.

What are your thoughts on the growth and development within your district?

Vela:  Growth in the district has been astonishing, and our public services are struggling to keep up. Traffic congestion in the district has been seriously affected. Growth can create opportunities, but it must properly managed. Texas must invest in our public infrastructure as our economy and population grow. And that growth must create benefits that are widely shared in the community.

Dawnna Dukes*

Note: Dukes holds the Texas House of Representatives District 46 seat. Dukes did not respond to multiple inquiries from Community Impact Newspaper for this article.

What are the top issues your district is facing?

Dukes:  Did not respond.

What are your thoughts on the growth and development within your district?

Dukes:  Did not respond.

Sheryl Cole

Experience: served on Austin City Council for 10 years and as Austin mayor pro tem; served as PTA president; served on boards of Planned Parenthood, Austin Urban League, Communities in Schools and more; founding member of the ADL Hate Crime Task Force

What are the top issues your district is facing?

Cole: The Legislature hasn’t paid its fair share of education costs and didn’t accept the Medicaid expansion. This has shifted the burden onto those that can least afford it as their property taxes rise and their health care options dwindle. For HD 46 and Austin, the lack of leadership has created an affordability crisis. Texas needs to return to investing in the welfare of our communities.

What are your thoughts on the growth and development within your district?

Cole: Certain areas of HD 46, like Pflugerville and Manor, are benefiting from Austin’s growth as more residents move in and businesses open up, contributing to a growing tax base for those localities. Other areas, like in East Austin, are seeing rising costs force people out of the homes that their families have owned for generations.

Warren Baker

Experience: small-business owner for 15 years; seven-year career in public speaking

What are the top issues your district is facing?

Baker:  Over the last two legislative sessions Texas has reduced funding for education. We rank 46th in the nation in per-pupil spending. Therefore I stand by the declaration that more students deserve above minimum-standard higher education. In order to do so we must start at the early stages and invest in programs like Head Start or Head Start-like programs.

What are your thoughts on the growth and development within your district?

Baker:  Manor, being the larger city of the district, is experiencing major growth. However, current representation isn’t doing enough to help nor engagement with the elected local officials as well as the residents.

Ana Cortez

Experience: small business owner; currently serving on Manor ISD board of trustees; serves on Texas Association of School Boards; serves as board member on Mexican American School Board Association

What are the top issues your district is facing?

Cortez: At the top of my priority list is the need to address public school funding and ensure that we follow through with the Legislature’s promise to study the issues and act accordingly. Our future depends on active and knowledgeable policymakers to move the issue in the right direction. My second priority is a topic that impacts all households and the space in which I operate in every day—health care.

What are your thoughts on the growth and development within your district?

Cortez:  Growth and development is generally a good thing as it provides more opportunity for small businesses to thrive, entrepreneurs to innovate and families to have access to more resources, but only when it is done responsibly in a community-driven fashion with an attention to the impact it has on current residents.

By Iain Oldman
Iain Oldman joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2017 after spending two years in Pittsburgh, Pa., where he covered Pittsburgh City Council. His byline has appeared in PublicSource, WESA-FM and Scranton-Times Tribune. Iain worked as the reporter for Community Impact Newspaper's flagship Round Rock/Pflugerville/Hutto edition and is now working as the editor for the Northwest Austin edition.


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