The Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, announced his choice of appointment for Texas Secretary of State on Thursday. In Texas, the office of the secretary of state oversees election administration. Abbott chose John Scott, a Fort Worth attorney. What makes the choice notable is that Scott was Donald Trump’s lawyer in a lawsuit that challenged the 2020 election results in Pennsylvania. It should be noted that Scott was a part of that lawsuit for only a few days.
John Scott signed on as counsel in the lawsuit on November 13 and just days later withdrew from the case after a ruling “gutted” the case.
On Nov. 13, Scott signed on as counsel to a lawsuit filed by Trump attempting to block the certification of Pennsylvania’s election. A few days later, on the eve of a key hearing in the case, Scott filed a motion to withdraw as an attorney for the plaintiffs. Scott’s motion also asked to withdraw Bryan Hughes, a Texas state senator from Mineola who works for Scott’s law firm, as an attorney for the case.
Scott’s law firm was the second in the span of a few days to withdraw from the case.
Hughes said Trump’s campaign reached out to Scott “because he’s a stellar lawyer.”
“It’s not surprising,” he said.
Hughes said they bowed out of the case because there was a ruling about standing that had come down from a federal appeals court that “really just gutted our case.”
“There really wasn’t much to do after that,” Hughes said.
The role of secretary of state in Texas has gained new powers thanks to the Texas election integrity reform law passed in the third special session of the Texas Legislature. Trump is lobbying the governor for more audits of the 2020 presidential election in Texas though he won the state by six points. The office of the secretary of state announced that the election in Texas was “smooth and secure.” Four counties are now conducting election audits but Abbott didn’t include a statewide audit in the agenda of the last special session, despite Trump’s plea to do so.
The new law goes into effect in December.
The office will be newly empowered to fine counties up to $1,000 a day for not properly maintaining their voter lists and to audit potentially years’ worth of the counties’ elections. The office also will have broader ability to pass on alleged voter fraud or missteps by election officials to the attorney general, who has made prosecuting election violations a top priority.
Texas Democrats were quick to criticize the appointment. Scott will have to be confirmed by the state senate but that won’t happen until the next general legislative session which will convene in January 2023. That means that Scott will be in office during the upcoming 2022 midterm elections when Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and all state legislators are on the ballot next year. The position has been vacant since the end of May when former Secretary of State Ruth Hughs resigned. Democrats point out that Abbott’s timing of the announcement is suspicious. He could have done it while the state legislature was in session.
“Abbott is appointing one of the architects of Republicans’ big lie that Donald Trump actually won the 2020 election to oversee all electoral activity in our state,” said Grand Prairie Rep. Chris Turner, who chairs the Texas House Democratic Caucus. “The freedom to vote is a sacred right. Texans need a secretary of state that will fight for and protect that right — and not undermine it for political gain.”
A Houston area state senator who sits on the nominations committee ironically pointed out that the position is supposed to be nonpartisan in nature. It’s ironic because the liberties taken by a rogue activist rookie Democrat County Clerk in Harris County (Houston) brought about the need for the election integrity reform bill in the first place. He took it upon himself to put in place procedures that were not part of state election law, like 24-hour voting and drive-thru voting. Those provisions are removed in the new law.
Sen. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, who sits on the nominations committee that approves the governor’s appointees said Scott’s representation of Trump in an effort to block election results is “extremely alarming.”
“This person gained notoriety by representing Donald Trump in court during the attempt to overturn the 2020 election, and this is not the kind of person — this political type of appointment, this political hack of an appointment — that we need,” said Alvarado, who leads the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus.
She said secretaries of state need to have good relationships with county officials and be nonpartisan. Scott’s work for Trump complicates that, she said.
When Abbott made the announcement he didn’t include Scott’s work on the Trump lawsuit. Scott has an impressive resume and worked with Abbott when Abbott was attorney general.
Scott has 33 years of legal experience, arguing more than 100 legal cases in state and federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court. Working at the attorney general’s office under Abbott, Scott was deputy attorney general for civil litigation, overseeing more than 22,000 lawsuits for the state. He later was appointed chief operating officer of the state’s Health and Human Services Commission, where he was in charge of 56,000 employees and a biennial budget of $50 billion.
In 1998, Scott gained national attention for winning $28 million in an asbestos lawsuit. At the time, it was the largest jury verdict of its kind in the United States.
Three years later, he tried the first Health maintenance organization lawsuit under the Texas Healthcare Liability Law.
Scott also has served as board chair for the Department of Information Resources. He has law offices in Fort Worth and Austin.
Let the squawkers squawk. This appointment isn’t as alarming as Democrats would like you to think at first glance. For them, the objection is all about delivering some red meat to the base for the midterm elections anyway.