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If Clinton's the Pick, Where Does That Leave Richardson?

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson was once seen as a good bet for secretary of state. Now, some are concerned that neither he nor any other Latino has yet been named to a high-ranking position in the Obama administration.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson was once seen as a good bet for secretary of state. Now, some are concerned that neither he nor any other Latino has yet been named to a high-ranking position in the Obama administration. (By Alexandre Meneghini -- Associated Press)
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By Al Kamen
Friday, November 21, 2008

As Hillary Rodham Clinton inches toward becoming secretary of state, Latino advocates are asking: Whither Bill Richardson?

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The New Mexico governor has been the best hope for a Latino to land a high-ranking post in the new administration. But Richardson, a former U.N. ambassador and energy secretary, appears to have lost out to Clinton -- although he could land another Cabinet post, perhaps at Interior.

Still, anxiety is running high among Latino leaders because Obama has yet to name a Latino to a top White House or Cabinet position. This is on the minds of senior transition officials -- including Obama's designated chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel -- who are said to be considering Latino candidates for several Cabinet posts.

"The Obama transition team and the chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, understand the role that the Latino vote played in this election, and I think we will see representation in the Obama Cabinet and at the White House," said Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza.

Rep. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), a member of the House Democratic leadership, said he has been forwarding the names of Latino candidates "for every type of position you can think of in the federal government, from Cabinet on down."

"We can remember the days when people said we had no applications, or there's no one qualified," Becerra said. "Everyone understands that the days of excuses are over."

Becerra, who's been mentioned as a candidate for labor secretary, said he is "not looking" for an administration job.

At least four Latino candidates are said to be under consideration to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development: Miami Mayor Manny Diaz; Adolfo Carrion Jr., a longtime New York pol, and Bronx borough president; Saul Ramirez Jr., a former deputy HUD secretary; and Nelson A. Diaz, who has been a judge and a HUD general counsel.

As for Richardson, Murguia suggested he could serve as secretary of commerce or the interior. "Perhaps there's an ambassador role to China," she added.

On Holder, a Hatch Redux?

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), in backing Eric Holder's nomination to be attorney general yesterday, noted the supportive words from Senate Republicans, especially from the Judiciary Committee's second-ranking Republican, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah. "I respect the man, and I intend to support him," Hatch told reporters Wednesday, praising his reputation and experience.

But no one should get too carried away. We recall Hatch's effusive praise of President Bill Clinton's nominee for attorney general, Zoe Baird, in mid-January 1993, after it was revealed she had hired a Peruvian couple who were in this country illegally to be her nanny and chauffeur and failed to pay their Social Security taxes.

There was talk that the committee might delay her confirmation hearing to look into the matter, but Hatch indicated at the time he would oppose the move, saying, "She's as straight a shooter as I've seen -- very intelligent, an excellent nominee."


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