Texas Politics

Abbott appoints new Secretary of State after review that questioned voters’ citizenship

Texas Secretary of State Rolando B. Pablos issues message to encourage Texans to vote

On the last day of early voting in Texas, Secretary of State Rolando B. Pablos issued a statewide video message to voters encouraging them to prepare to make their voices be heard.
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On the last day of early voting in Texas, Secretary of State Rolando B. Pablos issued a statewide video message to voters encouraging them to prepare to make their voices be heard.

After roughly 2½ months without a Secretary of State, Gov. Greg Abbott appointed Ruth Ruggero Hughs to take over as the state’s chief election officer.

Hughs’ appointment comes after previous acting Secretary of State David Whitley resigned in May just before the legislative session ended without the Senate voting on his confirmation.

Appointed in December, Whitley led an investigation that questioned the U.S. citizenship of nearly 100,000 Texas voters that was the subject of a lawsuit. Whitley was back on the governor’s payroll shortly after resigning with an annual salary of $205,000.

Hughs, who served as chair of the Texas Workforce Commission since August 2018, is an attorney, small business owner and also previously worked in the Attorney General’s Office. In addition, Hughs serves as chair of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Cultural Affairs, which identifies issues affecting the state’s changing demographics.

“Ruth is a proven leader who has done a tremendous job as both a commissioner and the Chair of the Texas Workforce Commission,” Abbott said in a news release. “She has built strong relationships with the business community throughout Texas and has helped lead the way in developing the best workforce in the nation.”

While appointed by the governor, the Secretary of State requires confirmation by the Texas Senate. With Hughs’ appointment taking place in the interim, the next opportunity for her to be confirmed won’t be until 2021 when the legislature reconvenes.

Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, and chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, said in a statement Monday that rebuilding trust in the Secretary of State’s Office would be necessary ahead of the 2020 election.

“Texas ranks near the bottom of voter turnout nationwide,” Anchia said. “And when Texans sense that election officials are rigging the system, it reduces participation and harms our democracy. We stand ready to help restore trust in the Secretary of State’s Office.”

In a statement Monday, Manny Garcia, executive director of the Texas Democratic Party, said he would be watching how events unfold.

“Incoming Secretary of State Hughs would be wise to respect our democracy and avoid any requests by Republican Governor Greg Abbott to suppress the vote,” Garcia said. “While we remain hopeful Secretary of State Hughs will protect and expand the vote in Texas, we will be observing the Republican establishment’s actions very closely.”

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Tessa Weinberg is a state government reporter for the Star-Telegram, covering all things policy and politics. She previously covered the Missouri legislature where her reporting prompted an investigation by the Attorney General’s office. A California native and graduate of the University of Missouri, she’s made her way across the U.S. and landed in Texas in May 2019.
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