New Mexico Governor Named Commerce Secretary in Obama Administration
December 3, 2008 - 5:55 PMPresident-elect Barack Obama selected a prominent Hispanic for his new Cabinet on Wednesday, naming New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson as his commerce secretary and calling him a leading "economic diplomat for America" in troubled times.
Richardson's nomination brings to three the number of former campaign rivals Obama has welcomed to his team. Joe Biden is the vice president-elect, and Hillary Rodham Clinton will be the next secretary of state, pending confirmation by the Senate.
At a Chicago news conference, Obama praised Richardson's long resume. He served as United Nations ambassador and energy secretary during the Clinton administration, and he is in his second term as New Mexico's governor. He also served seven terms in the House of Representatives.
"During his time in state government and Congress, and in two tours of duty in the Cabinet, Bill has seen, from just about every angle, what makes our economy work and what keeps it from working better," Obama said.
The president-elect seemed in a lighthearted mood as he made the announcement.
Asked about Richardson's recent decision to shave his beard, Obama joked that he was "deeply disappointed." He guessed that Richardson decided to jettison the facial hair after his wife found it scratchy.
Obama turned serious when talking about the economy, pointing to news that the country has been in recession for a year and that manufacturing production is at a 26-year low. Said Obama: "With each passing day, the work our team has begun, developing plans to revive our economy, becomes more urgent."
Despite the crisis, he struck an optimistic tone, saying: "I am more confident than ever that we have everything we need to renew our economy. We've got the ingenuity, the technology, the skill and commitment, we just need to put it to work."
Richardson pledged - in English and Spanish - to work to renew the economy when he is confirmed by the Senate to take over the sprawling department that oversees the National Weather Service, the Census Bureau, economic development programs and more.
His appointment adds more demographic diversity to a Cabinet that already includes several women and blacks. Richardson is the first Hispanic named to Obama's Cabinet.
Obama is considering another Hispanic politician, California Democratic Rep. Xavier Becerra, to be U.S. Trade Representative, according to two Democratic officials speaking on a condition of anonymity ahead of an announcement for the position.
New Mexico's Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, a Democrat, will become the state's first female governor when Richardson leaves to assume his new post. Denish will take over for the remainder of Richardson's term, which runs through 2010.
In neighboring Arizona, Obama's selection of Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano to serve as secretary of Homeland Security will put the state in the hands of a Republican governor.
Under Arizona law, Secretary of State Jan Brewer, a Republican, will take over from Napolitano.
The president-elect is moving quickly to fill his Cabinet, having identified choices for more than half the positions since he was elected the country's 44th president.
As a former energy secretary and U.N. ambassador, Richardson had been a contender for the job of Secretary of State, which ultimately went to Clinton.
Among those Cabinet posts yet to be disclosed if not chosen: the heads of the Interior, Transportation, Labor, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Education, Agriculture and Veterans Affairs departments. Obama also has yet to name his intelligence team, including his director of national intelligence and CIA chief.
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