TEXAS VIEW: Jane Nelson gives Texas secretary of state office a clean slate

THE POINT: Texas has had three secretaries of state overseeing elections since 2019, and it’s time to stop the revolving door.

Being Texas’ secretary of state not only means you are the top elections official, it also means you need a steady hand and a principled soul at a time when elections administrators everywhere are under attack because of infectious lies about rampant voter fraud.

Those lies have coalesced into a toxic environment for election workers and volunteers, some of whom have faced death threats or intimidation for doing their jobs.

Texas has had three secretaries of state since 2019, and it’s time to stop the revolving door. That is why we are reassured by Gov. Greg Abbott’s announcement that he will appoint retiring state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, to the post.

Our optimism about Nelson is rooted in her long tenure as a public servant and a record of bipartisanship. Nelson spent 30 years in the Texas Senate, where she chaired that body’s finance committee and became its top budget writer. She’s among the Republican and Democratic state lawmakers who deserve credit for boosting the state’s psychiatric hospital network and funding construction for the first public mental health hospital in Dallas, which broke ground this week.

As a veteran of the Senate, Nelson has handled an array of complex policy matters, including property tax reform and the state’s foster care system. She is well qualified to be secretary of state, and we expect that her nomination will sail through the Senate, which has not been the case with recent appointees for that job.

Nelson replaces John Scott, who took over in October 2021. Given his short tenure, Scott’s resignation comes as a surprise. But we welcome the opportunity to give the office a new start free from the baggage of the last four years.

Scott, a Fort Worth attorney, was an uncomfortably partisan pick for secretary of state. He briefly represented Donald Trump’s campaign to halt certification of Pennsylvania’s results in the 2020 election. He took over the secretary of state’s office shortly after it had announced a “forensic audit” of election results in four counties, bucking to pressure from Trump.

That drew sharp rebukes from the left. But Scott also criticized conspiracy “nuts” and affirmed the legitimacy of President Joe Biden’s victory, which angered extremists on the right.

Scott’s predecessor, Ruth Ruggero Hughs, resigned last year after the Senate inexplicably failed to take up her nomination. Her office avoided the “big lie” narrative, with one of Hughs’ deputies testifying to lawmakers that the Texas election in 2020 had been “smooth and secure.”

Before Hughs, Abbott aide David Whitley had made a mess out of the office with a bungled cleanup of the voter rolls that unfairly targeted tens of thousands of naturalized citizens.

Enough with the political games and the coddling of conspiracies. The secretary of state must ensure that elections run smoothly, educate Texans about the voting rules and show the independence and courage to protect the vote. We hope Texas has found that leader in Nelson and that the Legislature and the governor will clear the path for her to succeed.

The Dallas Morning News