WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Wednesday named Commerce Secretary Gary Locke the next ambassador to China, as rumors swirled about who might replace him. US Trade Representative Ron Kirk seemed to be the name on most lips in Washington, alongside a number of dark horse candidates.
According to The Hill and Mike Allen of Politico, current US Trade Representative Ron Kirk is a “top candidate” to replace Locke as Commerce Secretary, a key position that involves high-level policy on jobs and business issues. Kirk was both the first African-American to serve as mayor of Dallas and the first African-American to serve as USTR.
Other candidates for Commerce Secretary, according to Allen, include OMB deputy director for management Jeff Zients, deputy secretary of state for management and resources Tom Nides and deputy treasury secretary Neil Wolin. The Hill suggested that Obama might choose someone currently in business, floating possibilities such as Google CEO Eric Schmidt and John Thompson, a former executive at Symantec and IBM.
Some gay-rights advocates are pushing Obama to nominate Fred Hochberg, the current director of the Export-Import Bank of the United States. If nominated, Hochberg would be the first openly gay cabinet member.
“We’re looking for the president to show leadership on the appointment and to make sure people representing voters on the highest level are inclusive of the LGBT community,” Heather Cronk, managing director of GetEQUAL, told Raw Story.
Speaking from the White House about Locke’s newest appointment — alongside the nominee and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — Obama first sang the praises of outgoing Amb. Jon Huntsman, saying he “has been an outstanding advocate for this administration and for this country.” Huntsman, a former Republican governor of Utah, resigned the post late January and is weighing a 2012 presidential bid.
“In replacing Ambassador Huntsman, I can think of nobody who is more qualified than Gary Locke,” Obama said. “I know he will bring the same skills and experience that he brought to Commerce Secretary to this new position.”
Locke, a former governor Washington, was profiled by the Washington Post‘s WhoRunsGov as “safe” cabinet choice with a “squeaky-clean” image and “scant personal baggage.”
As Commerce Secretary, Locke held a low-profile and had few major accomplishments to celebrate. The Post reported Monday that his leadership “will perhaps be remembered best for the successful completion of the 2010 Census.”