Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Southwest looks to be well-represented in the Obama cabinet

First came the news that AZ's own Governor Janet Napolitano has been tabbed to take over the Department of Homeland Security.

Then came the strong rumors that Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ7) will be selected as Secretary of the Interior.

Now today comes the news that New Mexico governor Bill Richardson has been tapped to be Secretary of Commerce.

While all of those selections (if they become official) are good ones, both for the desert Southwest and for the country as a whole, the most significant for the Southwest is that of longtime environmental and progressive activist Grijalva, not that of the higher-profile Napolitano or Richardson. Grijalva has long been involved with southwestern and national environmental issues, serving as a member of the House's Committee on Natural Resources and chairing that committee's National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee. In short, he brings the right disposition and experience to the job once held by prominent Arizonans Bruce Babbitt (1993 - 2001) and Stewart Udall (1961 - 1969).

Over 50% of Arizona's land area is under federal control, as is Utah's, over 40% of New Mexico is federal land and over 80% of Nevada is. Colorado is slacking - a little over 30% of it is under federal jurisdiction.

Note: not all of the land areas mentioned above are under Interior's jurisdiction, such as that which is under military control. Still, a huge percentage of the Four Corners states and Nevada are federally-controlled.

In other words, there's definitely a need for a native of the southwest to be overseeing the Department of the Interior.

While both are longtime westerners and have served ably as governors of southwestern states, Napolitano and Richardson bring the sort of experience and temperment that lends itself to more generalization. In fact, both were rumored to have been considered for other posts before the proposed ones were settled on - Napolitano for Attorney General or White House Counsel and Richardson for Secretary of State (and with all due respect to Senator Clinton, Bill Richardson has way more qualifications for the job.)

On to consideration of more mundane ramifications...

Of the three seats, the Democratic Party is most likely to lose the AZ governorship. Not only would a Republican, Jan Brewer, ascend to the office upon Napolitano's move to D.C, but the Republicans have a registration advantage in AZ. That advantage will have to be overcome by the eventual Democratic nominee (Terry Goddard???) in 2010.

However, in AZCD7, the Democrats have an almost 2-1 registration advantage, so unless there's a brutal Democratic primary battle as part of a possible special election and the eventual winner is weakened significantly, the Dems will hold on to that seat.

In New Mexico, there are over 200,000 more registered Dems than Reps, so the Democratic Party *should* keep the NM governor's office. I say "*should*" because western Democrats are rather independent, which is why New Mexico is considered a battleground state during presidential elections.



Thane Eichenauer said...

And will Grijalva's replacement vote against war funding and banker bailouts? I hope so.

Will Richardson' replacement continue to implement New Mexico's medical marijuana legislation? I hope so.

I still they they are better off continuing their old jobs.

Lastly I wish Napolitano the best of luck at her new job.

cpmaz said...

Good questions, and for once we agree, Thane.