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Gov. Abbott taps Texas Racing Commission chairman as secretary of state

Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday named Rolando Pablos, the chairman of the Texas Racing Commission, the next secretary of state, following the resignation of Carlos Cascos.

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Texas Secretary of State Carlos Cascos is resigning, and Gov. Greg Abbott has tapped Rolando Pablos, the chairman of the Texas Racing Commission, to replace him, the governor's office said Monday. 

Pablos' appointment, which is subject to confirmation by the Texas Senate, goes into effect Jan. 5, a day after Cascos is due to step down. Cascos did not provide a reason for his resignation, but most secretaries of state in recent history have served one to two years. 

The secretary of state is Texas' chief elections officer and a top adviser to the governor on issues related to the border.

Pablos, who has also served on the Public Utility Commission, more recently was CEO of the Borderplex Alliance, a regional economic development agency. Pablos stepped down from that job earlier this year to start a renewable energy company, Uriel Americas.

"Rolando’s extensive record in public service and breadth of knowledge inspires confidence that he will be committed to the constitutional duties of the office and ensure the dispassionate application of election law," Abbott said in a statement. "Rolando’s impressive background and diverse experience make him uniquely qualified to serve our increasingly dynamic state and further fortify our international partnerships." 

Pablos' appointment will leave a vacancy on the racing commission. Abbott tapped him to chair the commission in November 2015 amid a debate on historical racing machines, which let people bet on replays of past races. Three months later, the commission voted to repeal rules allowing the new form of gambling.

Cascos, who has served for just under two years, announced his resignation in a letter to Abbott dated Monday. Reflecting on his tenure, Cascos said he is "proud of the work done on issues ranging from strengthening international relationships to administering elections."

"While I am grateful to have been part of your administration, please accept my resignation as Secretary of State effective January 4, 2017," Cascos wrote to Abbott. "Thank you again for the opportunity to serve our great state." 

Cascos, a former Cameron County judge, was Abbott's first appointment after he won election in 2014. Cascos' appointment was touted as a sign of Abbott's commitment to the Rio Grande Valley, on which Abbott had put an emphasis during his campaign.  

Though Cascos kept a relatively low profile during his tenure, his voter education campaign drew scrutiny during a 2016 election season that coincided with legal wrangling over Texas’ voter identification requirements. In September, a federal judge ordered Cascos' office to rewrite press releases and voter materials after plaintiffs said they inaccurately — and misleadingly — described softened ID requirements for the election. Civil rights advocates gave his office mixed reviews when voting began, with some saying it quickly responded to voter ID glitches while others saying Cascos should have better prepared counties to handle changes in regulations. 

Cascos' office quickly complied with the judge's order before voting started and said its "No. 1 objective" was "educating voters as clearly and efficiently as possible." 

Jim Malewitz contributed to this report. 

Read more:

  • As secretary of state, Cascos had aimed to move the office away from partisan gridlock over voting issues that had plagued his predecessors.
  • The racing commission voted to repeal rules allowing historical racing when Pablos was chairman. 

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