86th LegislatureIssuesState SenateWhy Did David Whitley Resign as Secretary of State?

The embattled nominee was unable to secure the necessary votes in the Senate after a botched voter roll analysis drew heavy criticism from various groups.
May 29, 2019
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Texas Secretary of State David Whitley resigned on Monday, the last day of the 86th Legislative Session, after having been appointed to the position by Governor Greg Abbott in December of 2018.

His resignation came after his nomination failed to receive the necessary support in the Texas Senate. A two-thirds vote was required in order for him to serve as secretary in a permanent capacity, and the votes did not materialize. As an unelected appointee, Whitley was only constitutionally allowed to serve until the end of the legislative session unless his confirmation by the Senate proved successful.

The 19 Republicans in the Texas Senate were expected to support the nomination, meaning Whitley only needed two Democrats to pledge their support in order to hit the required 21 vote threshold. However, all 12 Senate Democrats stood firm in their opposition.

Skepticism towards Whitley grew exponentially after his office announced there were just under 100,000 registered voters who were flagged as potential non-citizens. It was later discovered that at least a quarter of those listed were listed in error, and many more had most likely become naturalized citizens.

The error caused many voting rights groups across the state to voice their adamant opposition to Whitley’s nomination. Just three days before the resignation, the Texas Civil Rights Project released a letter signed by 23 groups urging Senate Democrats to hold their ground and refuse to confirm Whitley.

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Whitley was set to replace Secretary of State Rolando Pablos after he announced his departure from the secretary of state’s office after serving two years in the position. Having served as one of Abbott’s top aides since 2004, Whitley was largely expected to sail through the confirmation process.

At the time of the appointment, Abbott praised Whitley, saying “David has been an invaluable member of my administration for over a decade, both in my time as Attorney General and during the entirety of my first term as Governor.”

In his resignation letter, Whitley thanked Abbott for the opportunity, and said having his trust in doing so “goes beyond what I ever dreamed of as a kid growing up in a small South Texas community.”

After accepting Whitley’s resignation, Abbott released a statement praising him as a man of “moral character and integrity.”

Though no potential replacements have been publicly announced, the Governor is constitutionally required to make another appointment “without delay.”

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McKenzie Taylor

McKenzie Taylor

McKenzie Taylor serves as Operations Manager and resident plate-spinner for The Texan. Previously, she worked as State Representative Kyle Biedermann’s Capitol Director during the 85th legislative session before moving to Fort Worth to manage Senator Konni Burton’s campaign. In her free time, you might find her enjoying dog memes, staring at mountains, or proctoring personality tests.