December 22, 2000

Bush Names First Latino Appointment

By James E. Garcia

President-elect George W. Bush has settled on the first Latino appointment of his administration. Texas Supreme Court Justice Alberto Gonzalez will serve as his general counsel.

"I know firsthand I can trust Al's judgment because he was my first counsel as governor," Bush said. "Al is a distinguished lawyer. Al is a man who has only one standard in mind when it comes to ethics—and that is the highest of high standards."

Gonzales, 45, was offered the job and accepted it last week. Gonzalez's selection was formally announced during a press conference in Crawford, Texas on Sunday along with Bush's pick of Condoleeza Rice as his national security advisor. Bush announced his choice of Colin Powell to Be secretary of state on Saturday.

Bush, who won one of 10 black votes and one of three Latino votes, was asked if he was sending a message by announcing two blacks, two women and a Hispanic among his first choices. He said, "You bet - that people who work hard and make the right decisions in life can achieve anything they want in America."

One observer called it affirmative action by another name. Bush opposes affirmative action.

Gonzales said that working with Bush in Texas for three years gave him "the opportunity to get to know the type of man that he is, how he makes his decisions." He added, "Mr. President-elect, I could not pass up the opportunity to serve with you again."

Speculation is circulating that Texas Railroad Commissioner Tony Garza and a former Reagan civil rights official Linda Chavez also may be named to serve in a Bush cabinet. Both are Republicans.

U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-Texas, might also be a prospect, though early reports suggest he will stay in Congress in hopes of attaining a key committee appointment. Bonilla is one of only three Latino Republicans in Congress. The Republicans hold a slim lead in the House of Representatives.

A Bush appointee to The Texas Supreme Court, Gon-zalez won reelection in November. He was appointed by Bush to fill the un-expired term of Justice Raul Gonzalez in 1999. Previously, Gonzalez served as Bush's secretary of state and his legal counsel.

As secretary of state, Gonzales was a senior advisor to Bush, the chief elections officer, and the governor's top liaison on Mexico and border issues. Before his appointment as secretary of state, Gonzales served as general counsel to Bush for three years. Tony Garza held the post of secretary of state in Texas before joining the Texas Railroad Commission.

According to a short biography posted on the Texas Supreme Court website, Gonzales is a member of the American Law Institute. He was a board trustee of the Texas Bar Foundation from 1996 to 1999, a board director for the State Bar of Texas from 1991 to 1994, and president of the Houston Hispanic Bar Association from 1990 to 1991.

Gonzalez received a presidential citation from the State Bar of Texas in 1997 for providing legal aide to the poor, he was named Latino Lawyer of the Year by the Hispanic National Bar Association in 1999, and he was picked as one of the 100 Most Influential Hispanics by Hispanic Business magazine in 1999.

The White House counsel advises the president on all legal issues concerning the Office of the President and the White House, such as policy, ethics and whether to approve or veto legislation.

Gonzales was born in San Antonio, Texas and raised in Houston. He was the second Hispanic to serve on the Texas Supreme Court.

Garcia is editor of Politico - The Magazine for Latino Politics and Culture.

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