I’m not really much for forcible identity politics, but some Latino leaders are making noises that a Hispanic ought to replace Bill Richardson (who withdrew his nomination) as the Secretary of Commerce, making the argument that the Latino population must maintain its representation in the Administration. I’d prefer the best man or woman for the job, but this is a case where there already is a Hispanic who Obama considered for a separate cabinet appointment who may be able to be persuaded into accepting this one. That would be Xavier Becerra.
An Obama transition team source said a veteran California congressman, Xavier Becerra, has emerged as the leading congressional candidate to replace Richardson, the Hispanic governor of New Mexico, as President-elect Barack Obama’s choice for a job that will include overseeing the 2010 U.S. Census.
“Even though he turned down the trade representative slot, Becerra is not only Hispanic, but he has the skill, talent and experience to do the Commerce job,” said the source, who was not authorized to speak for the president-elect.
“Xavier’s name has gone to the top of the list of potential replacements in part because he is a member of the House leadership, he is well liked, he has very good credentials, and, of course, he was an early Obama backer,” the source said.
It’s all speculative at the moment, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this happened. Becerra wanted a bigger role in the Administration than trade representative, and certainly the Commerce Department would give him a better opportunity to shape White House policy.
Obviously this would create another special election in an adjoining district to incoming Labor Secretary Hilda Solis’ CA-32. Los Angeles County from Hollywood to points east would be ground zero for political wrangling this spring.
UPDATE: Becerra’s spokeswoman says he’s not interested.
Xavier Becerra is not considering an appointment to become Secretary of Commerce and will remain in the House, his spokeswoman told Politico.
“The Congressman has already expressed that he is staying in Congress and looks forward to working with the Obama Administration from his position as House Democratic Vice Chair,” said Fabiola Rodriguez.