Texas’ first Latina secretary of state quitting
By Peggy Fikac and John W. Gonzalez
AUSTIN —Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade, the first Latina to hold the position, abruptly announced her resignation Tuesday in the wake of controversy over a so-called voter purge.
“It has been the highest honor of my professional life to serve as the secretary of state for the greatest state in our nation,” she said in a statement announcing her departure.
In a letter to Gov. Rick Perry, who in 2008 named her to the post in which she serves as Texas’ chief elections officer, Andrade said her resignation is effective Friday. There was no immediate word on her replacement.
“As the first Latina secretary of state, Hope has a permanent place in our state’s history books and her personal commitment to making Texas a place of unlimited opportunity will leave a lasting impression on our state’s future,” Perry said in a statement.
Andrade’s resignation follows controversy over an effort overseen by her office to remove dead voters from the rolls ahead of the presidential election, in which many voters who still were very much alive got letters targeting them as potentially deceased.
“That may have put a little burr under her saddle because she did receive some criticism,” said attorney Roy Barrera Sr. of San Antonio, who was the first Latino to be secretary of state in 1968-69. “She’s been in the limelight. Maybe she wants to dim the lights just a little bit.”
Barrera said, “I know that the job can be taxing. At that time, I was receiving the guests who came here for HemisFair.” Yet, it was supervising elections he found most exciting, although that duty is fraught with controversy.
Citing the efforts in Texas and other states to purge rolls, Barrera said “in some efforts it was legitimate, in others it was just an effort to hold down the vote, in my opinion, of minorities. I don’t think she took any role in that effort, but yes, she did send letters to many, many people over the state inquiring about their qualifications.”
Andrew Wheat of Texans for Public Justice, which tracks money in politics, said of her resignation: “Maybe it’s time. We just felt like this so-called dead voter list of hers went way, way too far. … She sent garbage data to local election officials around the state. … That’s a sad record for our first Latina secretary of state.”
Andrade’s office has vigorously defended its actions in carrying out a state law meant to clean up voter lists.
Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, praised Andrade and her tenure, calling her a “classy lady” with integrity.
“She has done, I think, a fabulous job. She has been a beacon for openness and working with our country election administrators,” Van de Putte said. “She has been a great secretary of state … I always thought if the Republicans were smart enough, they’d run Hope statewide.”
San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President Ramiro Cavazos also heaped praise on Andrade, the group’s former chairwoman, citing her international efforts in the secretary of state’s post to promote Texas businesses in Mexico, Spain and elsewhere.
“She will be sorely missed. She had great balance and grace and a tremendous vision for economic development … as a successful business owner and a Hispanic woman.”
Rich Parsons, spokesman for the secretary of state’s office, said Andrade “felt that the time was right after a successful election to move forward and give someone else an opportunity to serve in this great office.”
Citing the voter purge and the state voter ID law put on hold by a federal court, Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, said: “I hope that she is resigning because she does not want to be a part of that any more.”
Looking ahead, Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, citing court findings on voter ID and redistricting, said that Perry “has the opportunity to appoint a secretary of state that will expand voter opportunities instead of constricting Texans’ constitutional right to vote.”
Andrade, a San Antonio resident, is the fourth-longest-serving secretary of state and is the 107th person to hold the position, which originated when Texas was a republic.
In 2003, she was appointed by Perry to the Texas Transportation Commission and served until 2008, when she was appointed to her current role.
Cavazos said he believes Andrade’s main reason for exiting now was that she wants a break after serving the state since 2003.
“I don’t think there’s anything amiss here,” Cavazos said. “It’s historically a ceremonial position but she been a very aggressive, professional, economic development leader for our city,”