By Diego Graglia, FI2W web editor
After Latino voters came out in big numbers in this election and voted for Barack Obama by a 2-to-1 margin nationally, Latino advocacy groups say they expect to see some of their own named to the president-elect’s incoming cabinet.
The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), an umbrella group comprising 26 organizations, sent Sen. Obama a letter on Monday asking him to name New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson as the next secretary of state. Richardson — the son of a Mexican mother who grew up in Mexico City — is probably the best-known Hispanic politician in the nation. He made numerous appearances for Obama during the campaign (and his endorsement of Obama instead of Hillary Clinton was a bit of a surprise due to his longstanding relationship with the Clintons.)
(At the same time, Sen. John Kerry deflected reports that he is seeking the secretary of state job.)
But Hispanics advocates aren’t stopping there. According to WashingtonPost.com, they want the Obama Administration to feature “at least two and as many as four” Hispanic cabinet members. Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza, told Phillip Rucker,
I’m not one to promote quotas. But I think it would be difficult to see a cabinet at this historic moment in the country that wouldn’t reflect diversity. So it’s our expectation that we would see a diverse cabinet and sub-cabinet.
According to Rucker, some of those being put forward as likely candidates include: Federico Peña, secretary of transportation and energy under President Clinton, who is part of Obama’s transition team; Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; AFL-CIO leader Linda Chavez-Thompson; and Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif).
NHLA chairman John Trasviña told The Wall Street Journal,
By all accounts, Latinos were a key part of President-elect Obama’s historic victory. (Now) Latinos have the talent and expertise to play a major role in governing at the cabinet level and throughout the federal agencies.
Besides Peña, other Latinos have been named to the transition team but have yet to join, according to some reports. The Dallas Morning News said Juliet V. Garcia, president of the University of Texas at Brownsville, would be advising Obama. And Diverse magazine reported Tampa attorney Frank Sanchez would join the team this week.
The importance of having Hispanic representation in the cabinet was also underlined by an African American former official, Roger Wilkins, who worked in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.
Wilkins told Politico’s Jonathan Martin: “The way the Latino population is growing and the immigration issue is becoming, you’d be nuts not to have Hispanics in the Cabinet to express their views.”