Nelson planned to retire from the Senate after 30 years in office. But her nomination will give Abbott a clearer path to having his nominee confirmed by the Senate after his last three have gone unconfirmed.
Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday said he will nominate retiring state Sen. Jane Nelson to be secretary of state. Thee announcement comes one day after John Scott said he would step down from the role at the end of the year.
Nelson is a longtime state senator who planned to retire this year after 30 years in the Legislature, but her nomination to be the state’s top elections official will give Abbott a strong candidate for Senate approval after his last three nominees dating back to 2018 have failed to be confirmed.
“I look forward to this new chapter of public service and appreciate the confidence Governor Abbott has placed in me to serve as Secretary of State,” Nelson said in a statement. “Voters expect fair elections with accurate, timely results, and I am committed to making that happen. Texans with all political views should have faith in our election system.”
In his statement, Abbott thanked Scott for his “tireless work educating Texas voters how they can participate in the electoral process and safeguarding the integrity of our state’s elections” before turning to Nelson’s strong resume for the job.
“Senator Nelson’s lifelong commitment to public service and deep understanding of state government will be assets in her new role ensuring the critical duties of Secretary of State are fulfilled,” Abbott said. “Nothing is more important to a free society than fair elections, and the State of Texas will continue working to uphold and protect this right.”
Nelson will step into the role at a difficult time for elections officials across the country. Criticism from vocal supporters of former President Donald Trump who falsely claim there was widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential elections has targeted elections officials who have been subjected to harassment. Scott, who briefly represented Trump in a lawsuit to overturn the election results in Pennsylvania, was among the election officials who received death threats over the past year for his efforts to convince voters that no widespread fraud occurred and that the state’s elections were safe and secure.
After pressure from Trump in 2021, Texas undertook election audits of four of the state’s largest counties. The first phase of that audit was released on New Year’s Eve 2021 and the full report of the audit will be released before Scott’s departure.
Nelson’s nomination brings a longtime veteran of state politics to the role. She is the longest serving Republican in the Texas Senate and has passed bills on changes to medical liability, property taxes, the state’s long-troubled foster care system, mental health care, domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking. She also was the first woman to lead the powerful Senate Finance Committee, which writes the state budget, and passed legislation to create the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.
Her status in the Senate’s Republican Caucus and her proximity to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who leads the chamber, makes her confirmation more likely.
Photo: State Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, planned to retire this year after 30 years in the Legislature. Credit: Juan Figueroa/The Texas Tribune