AUSTIN (AP) – Governor-elect Greg Abbott on Tuesday chose a Hispanic Republican as the first nominee of his incoming administration, naming a county judge from the Rio Grande Valley to be the new Texas secretary of state.
In the announcement at the Texas Capitol, Abbott highlighted the credentials of Cameron County Judge Carlos Cascos as well as where he plucked the state's next chief election officer from. Abbott spent his campaign aggressively courting Hispanics, and immigration and border security are poised to be major issues of his first year in office.
The outgoing Texas attorney general made a point of mentioning that his first official trip since his landslide victory last week was to the Rio Grande Valley.
"Judge Cascos will give the Rio Grande Valley a strong voice in Austin. He will also show the rest of Texas the outstanding leaders produced by the Rio Grande Valley," Abbott said.
The secretary of state's office primarily oversees elections in Texas — an area where minority leaders in Texas have especially taken aim at Abbott as attorney general. Abbott has stridently defended a strict new Texas voter ID law that opponents say disproportionately harm blacks and Hispanics, in addition to redistricting maps that Democrats say dilute the voting power of minorities.
Cascos spent as much of his introduction talking about border security and economic development as how Texans cast ballots. Among Abbott's plans is to send an additional 500 state troopers to the Texas border, where the Texas National Guard has already been deployed until at least the end of the year.
Lawmakers began filing bills this week ahead of the next legislative session that begins in January, which will be the first in 14 years without Gov. Rick Perry at the helm. Although Abbott didn't go into detail about specific bills already filed, he took a wait-and-see approach when asked about the potential return of a divisive "sanctuary cities" proposals that give police broader powers to ask people about their citizenship status.
"I have no doubt the legislature will be filing bills about that. We'll take a look at is as they file it, if they do," Abbott said.
Cascos will replace Nandita Berry, who was appointed by Perry last year.