Sources: Colorado’s Sen. Salazar offered Interior post |

Sources: Colorado’s Sen. Salazar offered Interior post

M.E. Sprengelmeyer
Rocky Mountain News

WASHINGTON ” Sen. Ken Salazar has been offered the position of Interior Secretary in President-elect Barack Obama’s cabinet and could accept it within a matter of days, sources told the Rocky Mountain News on Monday.

Salazar has long been considered a leading candidate for Interior Secretary, based in part on his past work leading the state Department of Natural Resources.

On Monday, three Democratic sources who spoke on condition of anonymity said that Salazar had been offered the job, and there were conflicting accounts about whether he had yet officially accepted the position.

Although one source said an announcement was a “done deal,” two others said he was still wrestling with a difficult decision as of Monday night.

“He’s a very thoughtful guy, and this is a big decision,” one source said. “It’s a great opportunity, but so is being in the Senate.”

At a televised press conference earlier in the day, Obama had to explain why he left out an announcement of the Interior Secretary position while he was unveiling the rest of the team that will oversee energy and environment issues.

The Interior Secretary oversees vast tracts of public lands, including environmentally sensitive areas where President Bush’s Interior Department tried to vastly expand oil drilling and minerals extraction.

“In the 21st century, we know that the future of our economy and national security is inextricably linked to one challenge: energy,” Obama said. “So today I’m pleased to introduce the majority of the team that will lead our efforts on energy and the environment. I say the majority because we are going to be doing separate announcements for the Secretary of the Interior, who is going to have a lot to do on energy policy.”

The Reuters news agency first touched off the new round of speculation with a report calling Salazar “the leading contender.” Already, political observers in Colorado were speculating about the political ramifications, since Gov. Bill Ritter would have to pick a replacement to fill out the remaining two years of Salazar’s term.

“I have very mixed emotions,” Ritter said in a written statement. “Ken Salazar has been an extremely effective United States Senator for Colorado these past four years, particularly as a moderate centrist. But if a nomination to join the Obama administration comes to pass, Sen. Salazar would make an equally outstanding Interior secretary for the country, for the West and for Colorado.

“He has a long and accomplished record on these issues, from his days in the Romer administration to his time as Colorado’s attorney general and as a U.S. Senator. For now, though, we shall wait and see what, if anything, transpires.”

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