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Texas Governor Greg Abbott has appointed Ruth Ruggero Hughs as Texas’ new Secretary of State, filling the position of chief state election officer after a voter purge controversy resulted in the resignation of the previous Secretary. KXAN has more:
Gov. Greg Abbott appointed Austin-based Ruth Ruggero Hughs as the Texas Secretary of State, his office announced Monday.
Hughs has resigned from her positions as the Chair and Commissioner Representing Employers of the Texas Workforce Commission. Gov. Abbott appointed her to the three-member commission in July 2015 and she became chair in August of 2018.
“Ruth is a proven leader who has done a tremendous job as both a commissioner and the Chair of the Texas Workforce Commission,” said Gov. Abbott.
As chair, Hughs sponsored Texas Business Conferences across the state and worked on initiatives for veterans, women entrepreneurs and people with disabilities.
“I am grateful to TWC and our workforce partners and thank the Governor for the opportunity to serve in this capacity for the past four years,” Hughs said. “It has been an honor and privilege to work with such dedicated individuals across the state toward our mission of supporting a workforce system that creates value and offers employers, individuals, and communities the opportunity to achieve and sustain economic prosperity.”
David Whitley, the Governor’s previous nominee for Texas Secretary of State, was embroiled in a controversy regarding a voter citizenship review. Democrats and multiple civil rights groups opposed his nomination after counties realized people on the list were citizens after all. The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, the national ACLU Voting Rights Project, the Texas Civil Rights Project, Demos and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed a lawsuit against Whitley, claiming that this list discriminated against naturalized citizens. Both sides eventually reached a settlement.
Whitley resigned from his role as Texas Secretary of State on May 27, after the Texas Senate failed to confirm his appointment into a permanent position during the legislative session.
The Texas Democratic Party released a statement after the announcement about Hughs replacing Whitley, saying it, civil rights groups and voting rights groups “remain determined to protect every Texans’ right to vote, and look forward to working with everyone who shares that goal.”
“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,” said Democratic Party Executive Director Manny Garcia. “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.”
In addition to assisting county election officials and ensuring uniform application and interpretation of election laws throughout the state, the Texas Secretary of State also deals with official and business and commercial records filed with its office. They also serve as senior advisor and liaison to the Governor for Texas Border and Mexican Affairs, as well as Chief International Protocol Officer for Texas.
Hughs is a member of State Bar of Texas, the New Jersey State Bar and chair of the Advisory Council on Cultural Affairs.
“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,” Gov. Abbott wrote. “I am proud to appoint Ruth as Secretary of State and I am confident that her experience at the Texas Workforce Commission will translate into success in this new role. Under Ruth’s leadership, we will continue to build the Texas brand on the international stage and uphold the integrity of our elections.”
The Texas Tribune details the biggest job facing the new SoS: explaining what happened with the controversial voter purge and re-establishing trust with the state’s large contingent of county election officials:
Ruggero Hughs is likely to face a challenge in repairing the secretary of state’s relationship with the hundreds of local officials it depends on to run elections. Some county officials have said they’re still waiting for an explanation from the secretary of state’s office on how they got the review so wrong.
Several county election officials were sued amid the voter rolls debacle for following the directions the secretary of state’s office sent them to review the rolls. Those instructions included the option to send letters demanding that voters prove their citizenship within 30 days to avoid being kicked off the voter rolls, which several counties immediately sent out and several naturalized citizens received. State lawyers placed much of the blame for any errors in the review on local officials, arguing they had behaved “contrary to state law” when they acted on the state’s advisory.
Ruggero Hughs inherits a big job in a tough spot – just as the high-intensity presidential election cycle gets underway. Best of luck to her; she will definitely have her hands full in one of the nation’s largest states in 2020. Stay tuned …