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Politics, government and public life for Southern California

California Latinos on list of recommendations for Cabinet posts

California Congresswoman Linda Sanchez (D-Lakewood) has been recommended to the White House as a candidate for a Cabinet post.
California Congresswoman Linda Sanchez (D-Lakewood) has been recommended to the White House as a candidate for a Cabinet post.

There are still a few job openings at the White House: cabinet positions for the secretaries of Labor, Commerce, and Transportation have yet to be filled. A coalition of Latino civil rights groups is pushing the White House to fill the positions with Latinos. But time is running out.

The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda has had more than a half-dozen meetings with White House officials, delivering one message: put three Latinos in the Cabinet. The organization followed up with a long list of people they say are qualified for the job.

Hector Sanchez, chairman of the NHLA, had the opportunity to deliver the message to Barack Obama personally last week when the President visited Las Vegas to outline his immigration agenda. Sanchez says he was in the front row for the handshake line and when it was his turn, he didn't let go.

"I told him, 'Mr. President, we're very concerned about having Latinos in the Cabinet.' And he said, 'I know and we're looking into that.'"

The list includes the names of several prominent Californian, including Democratic Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, Assembly Speaker John Perez, L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina,  California Community Foundation President Antonia Hernandez, and Southern California native and current Federal Trade Commissioner Edith Ramirez. None of them are national stars, but Sanchez says the White House asked for new names and regional leaders.

Molina said she was "flattered and honored" to be recommended by the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda. Hernandez had no comment. Perez wouldn't say whether he'd take a cabinet position. "Let them ask," he told the Sacramento Bee, "and I'll give you the answer then."

But the window of opportunity is closing fast for cabinet posts. The President has already found new secretaries of State, Defense, Interior, and a new head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

With the departure of Hilda Solis and Ken Salazar, there are no Latinos in the Obama cabinet. And with the departure of Solis at Labor, Leon Panetta at Defense, Steven Chu at Energy, and the resignation of John Bryson at Commerce for health reasons, there isn't a single Californian in the cabinet, either.

The NHLA's Sanchez says it's human nature for the White House to turn to a small circle of known quantitites, which for President Obama are often people from Chicago or the east coast. Sanchez says the White House needs to hear from "all the different voices" that we have as a nation, "and be fair."

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