Bill Richardson, announced yesterday as the nation’s next commerce secretary, became the first Latino nominated for President-elect Barack Obama’s Cabinet.
Hispanic lawmakers are serving notice to Obama that they don’t want Richardson to be the last.
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus delivered a letter Tuesday to Obama’s transition office recommending a slate of 14 Hispanics for the remaining eight Cabinet slots. “We understand that the incoming administration will have a vast pool of talent from which to choose,” the letter said. “The individuals we have endorsed constitute the best talent while reflecting the diversity that is so valued by President-elect Obama.”
The group’s chairman, Representative Joe Baca of California, warned that Obama’s agenda could be jeopardized if he doesn’t nominate more Latinos. “If it’s just one, he’s going to have to answer to a lot of the issues that come before us,” Baca told Bloomberg.
There were reports yesterday that Representative Xavier Becerra, a California Democrat, has emerged as a leading contender to become US trade representative. Becerra, a proponent of labor protections in free trade pacts, has been in Congress since 1993 and is on the House Ways and Means Committee.
Richardson, 61, the governor of New Mexico, served in the Clinton administration as energy secretary and ambassador to the United Nations. But after he dropped out of the Democratic nomination fight, he endorsed Obama.
Speaking in Spanish to thank Latinos for supporting him and Obama, Richardson noted that he is the third former competitor for the Democratic nomination—after Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton—to join Obama’s administration.