Monday, December 15, 2008

Ken Salazar 'leading contender' for Interior Secretary

After all the talk about his brother becoming agriculture secretary, news reports now say U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar is the leading candidate for U.S. Secretary of the Interior.

Reuters reports that President-elect Barack Obama is "close" to naming someone to the post and that Salazar is "the leading contender" for the job. And the Denver Post quoted an unnamed source close to the Obama transition team as saying the job was essentially Salazar's to turn down.
There was talk about Salazar going to DOI a couple weeks ago, but those rumors died down as Salazar kept saying he hadn't talked to the transition team and speculation ran rampant that his brother, U.S. Rep. John Salazar (D-Manassa), would be appointed U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

But John Salazar's chances for USDA look mighty slim now that he's been appointed to the House Appropriations Committee.

And there are certainly good reasons to think Ken Salazar has a decent shot at the job. Obama named New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) as his commerce secretary, but odds are he's still looking for more Latinos and people from the Rocky Mountain west. Plus, Salazar was director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources under Gov. Roy Romer -- essentially the Colorado version of U.S. interior secretary. And former Denver Mayor Federico Pena's on Obama's transition team.

The most obvious downside for Salazar is that joining Obama's cabinet would give Republicans a far better chance to take his Senate seat in 2010. Right now, Salazar's chances for re-election are excellent -- he's already raising lots of cash, and pundits are questioning whether the GOP can find a competitive candidate to run against him.

Then, of course, there's what Salazar himself wants to do. His star is rising in the Senate, especially after he helped keep U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) in the Democratic Senate caucus. And as the Department of the Interior affects Colorado perhaps more than any other Cabinet agency, Salazar might find it hard to pass up the opportunity.

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