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Governor Charlie Baker on Wednesday nominated Kirsten L. Hughes, the former chairwoman of the Massachusetts Republican Party, to the position of clerk magistrate of the Stoughton District Court.

Hughes, a Quincy city councilor, currently serves as general counsel for the Norfolk County Sheriff’s Office, the agency tasked with overseeing the county jail in Dedham. After leading the state’s Republican Party for six years, Hughes announced last year she would not seek reelection to its top post. Jim Lyons, a former state legislator from Andover, succeeded Hughes earlier this year.

Baker, a Republican, defended his nomination of Hughes when a reporter asked if it was a “patronage” move. In recent months, state officials have hired at least four of the state GOP’s operatives, including two directly within the governor’s office.

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“I don’t think having a job somewhere in the political world on a volunteer or paid basis should disqualify you from doing anything else for the rest of your life,” Baker told reporters on Wednesday.

“Kirsten Hughes has been a public defender. She’s been in private practice. She was deemed well qualified by the joint bar, and ran through the same anonymous application process that everybody else runs through,” he said. “And I’m proud to nominate her. I think she’d be a terrific clerk magistrate.”

In a statement, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito called Hughes an experienced attorney and a qualified nominee.

“If confirmed, I am confident she will serve all parties before her fairly,” she said.

The post, a lifetime appointment, pays $155,084 annually. According to rules of the state’s Supreme Judicial Court, a clerk magistrate “should diligently discharge administrative responsibilities, maintain professional competence in judicial administration, and facilitate the performance of the administrative responsibilities of other court officials.”

Since 2012, Hughes has served as a city councilor in Quincy, where she lives with her husband and two sons, officials said.

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A message left with Hughes was not immediately returned Wednesday evening.

Applicants for judicial openings are reviewed by the judicial nominating commission and recommended to the governor, according to Baker’s office. The Governor’s Council approves the nominations.

As general counsel for the Norfolk sheriff’s department, Hughes advises and represents the office in all matters relating to employment, union, and civil matters, according to Baker’s administration. Hughes was also appointed special sheriff, a role that means she manages and oversees a staff of about 50 and is responsible for the management and administration of the organization’s budget, Baker’s office said.

Before she worked in the sheriff’s office, she practiced law in the office of the Quincy-based Palmucci Law, P.C., according to the governor’s office. In her private practice, she represented indigent clients on behalf of the Committee for Public Counsel Services and also represented private civil and criminal clients in Plymouth, Bristol, and Norfolk counties, the governor’s office said.


Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.