Gov.-elect Greg Abbott announced Tuesday that he will name Cameron County Judge Carlos Cascos as the next secretary of state, tapping a Rio Grande Valley Republican who first won his office in 2006 by defeating Gilberto Hinojosa, now chairman of the Texas Democratic Party.
And in a sign that he intends to continue to aggressively challenge White House actions in court, Abbott told reporters he wouldn’t rule out legal action if President Barack Obama takes executive action as promised on immigration, without congressional approval.
The governor-elect initially announced the first pick of his new administration Tuesday morning in Brownsville during a roundtable discussion with Rio Grande Valley leaders. Abbott and Cascos later appeared together at an afternoon news conference in Austin.
“I wanted someone with proven leadership experience,” Abbott said of his reasons for choosing Cascos. “Someone who understands how government works, someone who can cultivate strong bonds along the border as well as strong bonds across the border, someone who can advance Texas’ interests both at home and abroad.”
Cascos, a certified public accountant, was re-elected as county judge last week. His nomination as the next secretary of state, which is subject to confirmation by the Texas Senate, will not be official until Abbott is sworn into office in January.
The secretary of state serves as Texas’ chief election officer as well as a senior adviser and liaison to the governor regarding border issues.
In choosing Cascos, Abbott asked for the “indulgence of the voters of Cameron County.” He said he wanted to announce this pick early so that preparations could be made for replacing Cascos — and so that his nominee could prepare for his new position.
At the news conference, Cascos said that by selecting him for this post, Abbott demonstrated “his commitment to the Rio Grande Valley and our border region.”
The nominee-to-be also outlined some of his priorities for the position, especially as it relates to the border region. He said that implementing a comprehensive water plan was an “imperative,” and that, in conjunction with Abbott and the federal government, he would work with Mexico to ensure they abide by treaties pertaining to use of the Rio Grande.
He said he also hopes to be able to “ensure that South Texas can participate in the energy boom in Northern Mexico.”
No stranger to gubernatorial appointments, Cascos was appointed by Gov. Rick Perry to the Texas Public Safety Commission in 2004. Two years later, he was elected county judge, defeating Hinojosa.
In 2007, Perry named Cascos the presiding officer of the Texas Border Security Council.
The current secretary of state, Nandita Berry, has served since January.
Also Tuesday, Abbott said that legal action should be considered if President Obama moves unilaterally on immigration.
Obama has pledged to use his executive authority to expand deportation relief for millions in the country illegally. Analysts have said a move that grants work permits to undocumented immigrants could be a potential boon to the state’s economy.
But Abbott, who as attorney general has sued the Obama administration more than 25 times since 2009, said the president should seek congressional support to work on legislation that is palatable to both parties.
“What the president needs to do is stop working in isolation, stop working antagonistically towards the members of the United States Congress and instead join with them on crafting a plan that will fix the broken immigration system that we have in this country,” Abbott said.
“If the president uses what seems to be his version of dictatorial powers to impose on Americans a law that is not passed by the United States Congress, I think any and all possible actions should be taken to try to stop it, including potential legal action.”
Other Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, have warned fellow lawmakers against the president’s plans.
“The Supreme Court has recognized that ‘over no conceivable subject is the power of Congress more complete’ than its power over immigration,” Cruz wrote current Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, last week. “Therefore, President Obama will be exercising powers properly belonging to Congress if he makes good on his threat.”