Colorado Sen. Salazar pushes for Westerner on Cabinet
DENVER, Colorado ” Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar said Wednesday that Barack Obama needs to put a Westerner on his Cabinet because the region has major issues that the new administration must address, including federal land use and water.
Salazar, a Democrat who helped deliver Colorado’s nine electoral votes for Obama, suggested four Western governors: Montana’s Brian Schweitzer or Wyoming’s Dave Freudenthal as interior secretary, New Mexico’s Bill Richardson as secretary of state and Arizona’s Janet Napolitano as attorney general.
“He will be looking for the best of talent, and we have our share of talent here in the West,” Salazar said.
Salazar himself might be a candidate for attorney general, or at least to advise on the search for one, said Steve Mazurana, a political scientist at the University of Northern Colorado.
Salazar was chief legal counsel to former Gov. Roy Romer in the 1980s, and he was Colorado’s attorney general before running for Senate.
When a reporter asked Salazar Wednesday about a bigger prize ” a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court ” his eyes gleamed and his demeanor changed, but he said any speculation about that was premature.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Salazar said.
Richardson said he doesn’t expect to be in the Obama administration.
“I never say never, but I am anticipating being governor for two more years. I love my job. I’m not looking for a job. I am not campaigning for any job,” he said.
Richardson said the 2009 New Mexico Legislature convenes on Jan. 20, the day Obama is inaugurated, and he expects to be in Santa Fe, not Washington.
Freudenthal has consistently rejected suggestions he would even consider leaving Wyoming for the Beltway.
Schweitzer, who easily won re-election Tuesday, said he isn’t interested in taking someone else’s orders and has more to accomplish as governor of Montana.
“I ran a business before I ran the business of the state of Montana,” Schweitzer said Wednesday. “And I like running a business, not getting calls from somebody telling me I’m off to some place to do something else.”
Arizona Democrats would pay a price if Napolitano left before her term ends in January 2011.
Arizona does not have a lieutenant governor, so Secretary of State Jan Brewer, a Republican, would succeed her, and hundreds of Democratic appointees to state government jobs would leave.
Napolitano spokeswoman Jeanine L’Ecuyer said the governor has not been offered an appointment.
Other Westerners whose names have been mentioned as potential members of the Obama administration include Washington state Gov. Christine Gregoire, a former state attorney general, for U.S. attorney general; Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a staunch Obama supporter, for transportation secretary; Roy Romer, a former Colorado governor who later served as superintendent of Los Angeles public schools, for education secretary; and Washington state Reps. Jay Inslee and Norman Dicks, both for interior secretary.
Mazurana said Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter might also be considered, but he said the two-year governor may not be battle-tested enough for intense scrutiny a Cabinet post would bring.
“He doesn’t have that executive management experience and I don’t know that he’d be thrown into a Cabinet where you’re thrown to the bites and scratches of Washington,” Mazurana said.
He pointed to the last Colorado governor who served in a Cabinet ” Republican John Arthur Love, who served as energy czar under President Nixon in 1973 but resigned after just five months amid the turmoil of that administration.
Ritter said Wednesday he hasn’t been approached by Obama’s team, but he didn’t reject the idea outright.
“I haven’t talked to anybody, and nobody has talked to me,” Ritter said.
Federico Pena, a former Denver mayor who served as secretary of energy and transportation under President Clinton and was co-chair of Obama’s campaign, has been appointed to the advisory board for the Obama transition team.
The Denver Post reported that Don Gips, a vice president of Level 3, an Internet network operator based in the Denver area, has also been appointed to the transition team.
Associated Press Writer Kristen Wyatt also contributed to this report.