News Analysis

A New Search for Commerce


News Analysis January 5, 2009, 1:57PM EST

A New Search for Commerce

With Bill Richardson's withdrawal as Commerce Secretary designate, the Obama team is back to square one

By BW Staff

While the political wonks were trying to figure out whether New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson was nudged or pushed out of the proposed Obama Cabinet over a continuing probe in the state, business leaders and Hispanic groups were already wrangling over who will be named Commerce Secretary in Richardson's stead.

Among the names surfacing on Jan. 5 were Scott Harris, managing partner of law firm Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis, an expert in trade issues, and Leo Hindery, a former senior policy adviser to ex-Presidential candidate John Edwards.

At the same time, advocacy groups were pushing for a Hispanic nominee to replace Richardson, who would have been the highest-profile Hispanic in the Obama Administration. Politico.com reported that Brent A. Wilkes, national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, had put together a list of 10 possible Latino replacements. The list included Representative Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez, and Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, according to Politico.

Two other Hispanics—Representative Hilda L. Solis (D-Calif.) and Senator Ken Salazar (D-Colo.)—have been named to Cabinet posts.

Avoiding a Long DelayRichardson withdrew from consideration on Jan. 4 because of an investigation of a state contract given to a financial-services company. Richardson denied that he did anything wrong, but said the probe could delay his confirmation hearings.

Possible candidates to replace Richardson, according to a report by Reuters, are Hindery, a former chief executive of the YES Network, and Oracle (ORCL) President Charles Phillips. Kansas Governor Kathleen Sibelius had also been mentioned, but on Monday a Sibelius spokeswoman told The Kansas City Star that the Democratic governor is sticking by her decision not to seek a Cabinet post.

The Commerce job—which will play a key role in President-elect Barack Obama's plan to create more than 2.5 million jobs—has turned out to be a vexing one to fill. His finance chief, Penny Pritzker, was rumored to be his preferred choice for the post, but she had to drop out because of business conflicts. Richardson, meanwhile, was said to have preferred the Secretary of State post—which went to Hillary Clinton.


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