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Harris County down to two finalists for new elections administrator

County Judge Lina Hidalgo said both candidates had extensive experience, but she did not publicize the names.

HOUSTON — The most populated county in Texas is one step away from finding a new elections administrator.

Harris County’s Election Commission whittled the list down to two candidates on Wednesday during a closed-door executive session.

County Judge Lina Hidalgo said both candidates had extensive experience, but she did not publicize the names.

“The reason is several of these folks still have their other job, and if they’re not named, they don’t want it to be known that they applied,” she said.

Because they both come from out-of-state, the county judge says they likely won’t be able to start until August 1.

That's one month after current Election Administrator Isabel Longoria’s planned July 1 resignation date, which she announced following bipartisan criticism after a problematic March primary election.

Judge Hidalgo says the current Chief Director of Voting, Beth Stevens, will serve as interim administrator.

“We do ask that Ms. Stevens leave hiring and firing decisions to the next elections administrator unless she petitions this commission at the next meeting,” said Judge Hidalgo.

The five-person Election Commission is made up of the Harris County Judge, County Clerk, County Tax Assessor-Collector, Harris County Republican Party Chair, and Harris County Democratic Party Chair.

Two speakers during the public comment Wednesday period urged the commission to reinstate Longoria.

“I believe Administrator Longoria has made massive steps forward since the primary back in March,” said Charles Crews, of Baytown. “The new person coming in, whoever that’s going to be, is going to have less than three months (to prepare for the November election). Administrator Longoria has been in office over a year-and-a-half.”

Longoria told the commission Wednesday that using NRG Arena as the central counting station helped make the May 24 primary runoff a “huge success."

She urged members to keep that plan in November.

“I think the data’s proven time and time again when you have a bigger spot with more people and more processing tents, you can get a good system going,” Longoria said.

Commission rules require two meetings before the final selection on the elections administrator. Wednesday’s meeting was the first.

Judge Hidalgo says the second meeting will likely happen the following week.

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