In Transition Labor Secretary, U.S. Trade Representative

(Ron Edmonds - AP)
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Friday, December 19, 2008

Hilda L. Solis

Current job: Democratic congresswoman from California

What she offers: Solis, 51, has not served on the House Education and Labor Committee but has been an outspoken critic of the Bush administration's labor policies and is the only member of Congress on the board of American Rights at Work, a pro-labor outfit. A close ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi who endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic primaries, she is a proponent of retraining workers for "green" jobs and a co-sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier to organize workers. The daughter of a Teamster shop steward and a member of the United Rubber Workers, she led the fight in the California legislature for a higher minimum wage.

Vetting: Solis has served in the House since 2001, representing California's 32nd District, which includes heavily Hispanic areas of East Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley. Before that, she served eight years in the state legislature, where she was the first Latina elected to the state Senate. Her career started in the Carter White House, where she worked in the Office of Hispanic Affairs and the Office of Management and Budget.

Quote: "When union people get paid good wages, that money stays in the community, it helps to provide a vibrant economy, it helps to also even send their children like me . . . to college and eventually run for office. Wow. Outstanding," she said, speaking out for the Employee Free Choice Act last year. "The unions always get a bad name by certain people in [Congress], but I'll tell you one thing: I'm proud to stand with many of our union members to see how they have revitalized many of our communities."

Ronald Kirk

Current job: Partner at Vinson & Elkins, a Houston-based law and lobbying firm.

Credentials: Kirk, 53, was the first African American elected mayor of Dallas and served two terms leading the nation's ninth-largest city. He entered politics as a teenager volunteering for George McGovern's presidential campaign. He later worked as assistant city attorney and chief lobbyist for the city of Dallas. An aide to Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, Kirk followed Bentsen to the Treasury Department at the start of the Clinton administration and returned to Texas in 1994 as secretary of state. In 2002, Kirk ran for a U.S. Senate seat but lost to John Cornyn (R). He then went into private practice as a lawyer.

What he offers: Kirk is little known in trade circles but brings years of executive and legal experience. He also is close to Barack Obama, having endorsed him in the Democratic primaries and telling a Texas newspaper that he has "an interesting relationship" with the president-elect. Kirk would be the fourth African American and only Southerner in Obama's Cabinet.

Quote: "As General [Colin L.] Powell said, if the president feels that there is a role that I can play in the administration, that is something I would have to consider," Kirk told The Washington Post last week when asked whether he would serve in Obama's administration.

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