For the second time, the Senate Nominations Committee met this week to approve the governor’s appointees — and for the second time, the Republican-dominated committee did not call a vote on David Whitley, the governor’s embattled pick for Texas secretary of state.
As the state battles three federal lawsuits over a botched attempt to clear its voter rolls of supposed noncitizens, Whitley has been fighting a quieter battle at the Texas Capitol: to win confirmation as Texas’ chief election official. To keep his job for much longer, he needs to muster support from at least some Democratic members of the Texas Senate, which has the power to accept or reject his nomination. But with several Senate Democrats who have already declared their opposition — and with pressure mounting privately and publicly for the rest of the caucus to do the same — he’s made little public progress in what is usually an uncontroversial process for nominees.
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott continues to back his nominee “100 percent,” a spokesman said, and Whitley doesn’t seem to have given up. As recently as last week, Whitley met with Democratic senators in an effort to secure their votes. And although Whitley and his deputies have held firm in the overall efforts to verify the citizenship status of of almost 100,000 Texans, he even issued something of an apology for the way his agency bungled its rollout of the controversial voter citizenship review, which was based on deeply flawed data and seemingly pulled in tens of thousands of registered voters for review because they were naturalized citizens.
But on Thursday, Whitley suffered a series of losses. After the Nominations Committee punted on his appointment for the second time after a blistering confirmation hearing, some three dozen civil rights and advocacy groups rallied on the steps of the Texas Capitol to hold the line on his nomination. And Whitley gained several new adversaries over the course of the day as Democratic senator after Democratic senator came out against his nomination — including El Paso Democrat José Rodríguez, who chairs his party’s caucus in the Senate.