By Tony Castro
With only two Cabinet positions still to be filled in the second Obama administration, there is a hushed concern among Hispanic leaders in the country that the upcoming inauguration could bring with it a sobering if disappointing wake-up call.
The euphoria over President Barack Obama’s re-election, made possible with him getting 71 percent of the Hispanic vote, has given way to the possibility that the great Latino expectations it raised will soon be dashed.
“We believe that the President is committed to diversity, but we’re a little bit worried,” says Hector Sanchez, chair of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, a coalition of 30 national Latino organizations.
“It’s just an issue of fairness. Obviously, Latinos did deliver. We want at least three Latino cabinet members. We believe that is a fair reflection of the diversity of the nation.”
But with only days before the inauguration, only Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is assured of a place on the Obama Cabinet (editor’s note: Secretary Salazar resigned from this post on Tuesday, Jan 15.).
“We certainly would not want to see anything less than two cabinet positions,” says Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. “At this point, I’m taking the president at his word.”
But time is running out, and the names of likely Latino nominees for Cabinet positions is short.
It could be that the full second administration Cabinet won’t be in place until weeks after the inaugural celebrations that will include a landmark Hispanic gala hosted by actress Eva Longoria.
Six of the first term Cabinet members are expected to stay for Obama’s second term, not including Salazar who has not said what he intends to do.
The openings are EPA administrator and Labor Secretary, which Hilda Solis announced last week she was leaving.
There could possibly be an opening as energy secretary if Steven Chu leaves, as some expect him to, and transportation secretary should Ray LaHood steps down.
Latinos being considered for Cabinet positions
On Tuesday the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda is expected to submit a list of possible Latino candidates for the Obama second term Cabinet.
But that list is expected to include California Congressional members Linda Sanchez and Xavier Becerra who are not likely to give up their current positions.
Becerra, the new Democratic Caucus chairman, is the sole Latino leader among the party’s Congressional leadership. Sanchez has two plum committee positions in the House, Ways and Means and Judiciary.
And the choice many thought was obvious, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, could prove to be a tough vetting challenge and a difficult sell to Republican senators who have already embarrassed Obama when they forced U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to remove her name from consideration for Secretary of State.
Meanwhile, no one is more aware of how bleak the time has become for Latinos in national politics now that Obama’s re-election is history than Villaraigosa who must step down as mayor July 1 because of term limitations.
“With each passing week,” he told the National Press Club in Washington Monday, “I take another step toward what one wit would call the transition from Who’s Who to who’s he?”
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