Update: U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solís resigned soon after this was published.
Soon after President Obama’s re-election, rumors of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s replacement started flying. Mr. Obama settled on Massachusetts senior Senator John Kerry. Other top nominations include former Senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican, as Secretary of Defense and John Brennan to head the Central Intelligence Agency. These men are as qualified as they are controversial and if selected will lead and shape policy for government agencies considered to be the most important because of their impact here and throughout the world.
Up to now, not a single Hispanic has been gossiped about, much less nominated to the President’s inner leadership circle. This is a problem not on grounds of affirmative action. Rather, Latino voters were the crucial element of the coalition that delivered re-election to this President. With our political clout growing, we should be insisting that our leaders quickly get beyond the misconception that our emerging community is a political “one-trick comprehensive immigration reform pony.” Labor Secretary Hilda Solís and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar who have served since 2009 prove that Latinos’ expertise and contributions reach far and wide.
So why this glaring absence? Firstly, where does the President look for candidates? One answer is to mine previous administrations. Former Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Henry Cisneros served under Bill Clinton but wouldn’t be touched with a ten foot pole because of a mistress and money scandal that led to an FBI investigation, indictment, guilty plea, and a presidential pardon. But how about former Small Business Administration head Aída Álvarez? Other Clinton alums include former New Mexico governor, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and Energy Secretary Bill Richardson who is on a much criticized private trip to North Korea. Let’s not forget Janet Murguía, the President and CEO of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the largest national civil rights and advocacy organization in the country.
How about Congress? Veterans New Jersey Senator Bob Menéndez; California representatives Loretta Sanchez and Xavier Becerra; New York Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez; and Illinois Congressman Luis Gutiérrez serve on committees that range from homeland security, banking, finance, foreign relations and our entitlement programs.
Outside government: J. Paul Raines, the CEO of GameStop, the world’s largest video game retailer; United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce chief Javier Palomarez; retired Army Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez; and head of the Girls Scouts Anna Maria Chávez have know-how, connections, and relationships that could help our country move forward.
Many good reasons exist not to serve: Democrats will say the balance of power in Congress is too fragile to spare even one vote. There’s government pay and families not wanting to be covered in muck after a nomination and confirmation hearing or intense media scrutiny.
Still, the purpose of this list is to remind the President that qualified Latinos are ready to serve at the highest level; to urge our advocacy community to keep up the pressure, not just on immigration reform, but on a range of issues, which requires some distance for those a little too cozy with this Administration; and to encourage Hispanics to continue scaling the educational and career ladder to populate a bench with qualified professionals.
Ultimately, the President chooses a person who is loyal and whom he trusts. These names are suggestions but reveal a “Latino List” of smart, prepared, and innovative leaders. Mr. Obama and his inner circle must look past the “usual suspects” and maybe, take a chance.
This post was first published as "President Obama’s Missing Latino Senior Administration" on January 9, 2013 in Fox News Latino where I am a regular politics columnist.
Click here to read my other Fox News Latino politics columns.Question: Who did I miss?