The Texas Senate confirmed former state senator Jane Nelson as secretary of state on Wednesday in a unanimous vote that avoided another embarrassment for Gov. Greg Abbott, whose last three nominations for the post have never received confirmation.
Nelson, a Republican, represented Fort Worth and other North Texas cities in the Senate for 30 years before deciding not to seek reelection last year. In her decades-long career, she became the longest-serving Republican woman in the Senate and the first woman to lead the powerful Senate Finance Committee, which prepares the state budget.
In a statement following his confirmation, Nelson thanked his former colleagues and Abbott and said he intended to “work every single day on behalf of the people of Texas.”
“I will work to safeguard fair and accurate elections in all 254 counties of our great state while continuing to support business leaders by ensuring government moves at the speed of Texas business, not the other way around,” Nelson said. “I look forward to strengthening relationships with all of our international partners and telling the world the great story of Texas’ economic prosperity.”
As secretary of state, Nelson is Texas’ chief election officer, a position that has become highly politicized in recent years after top-level politicians, most notably former President Donald Trump, promoted falsehoods and denials theories of electoral fraud in major elections. Election administrators in other states have had to dismiss such claims, and local election administrators have come under close scrutiny from groups claiming widespread voter fraud.
Nelson’s predecessor, John Scott, experienced some of that pressure — he said he received death threats for his work — but he overcame it by engaging with groups claiming foul play to ease their concerns. Scott briefly served as Trump’s attorney in one of his lawsuits aimed at overturning the 2020 presidential election and then defended the election’s integrity as Secretary of State.
Scott has launched an audit of four major Texas counties after Trump, claiming voter fraud, pressured Abbott to review election results in the state. Scott completed a state review of the 2020 presidential election in December, which found that while there were some “irregularities” during the election, they weren’t riddled with widespread fraud. Before releasing the audit findings, Scott announced that he would be stepping down from his position to return to private practice.
In December, as he was about to retire from the legislature, Abbott nominated Nelson for the position. The move was wise. Abbott had struggled to get Senate confirmation for the two nominees of him before Scott. In Nelson, he introduced a respected lawmaker to the House who was one of them.
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David Whitley was derailed by Democrats’ opposition to him because of his oversight of an attempt to purge the electoral rolls of 100,000 voters, many of whom had Hispanic last names and had not previously been US citizens but were later naturalized. Ruth Roger Hughs’ confirmation process went unnoticed, but activists who questioned the integrity of the election without evidence opposed her confirmation because her office said the 2020 election would be “fair.” and safe”. She resigned before facing a hearing.
During her nomination hearing in February, Senators were cordial to Nelson and joked with her about being on the other side of the legislative grid.
Nelson will also play an important role in the state’s economic development as secretary of state and oversee foreign relations, including a tenuous one with Mexico, as the state’s principal ambassador.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune.