As President Barack Obama enters into his second term, he’s building a new cabinet. Latino political activists are watching the process closely and waiting to see if Hispanics are going to be well represented - while also reminding the White House that Latinos are now powerful voting bloc.
In the first Obama administration two cabinet posts were filed by Latinos – Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. Also former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson was nominated to be Commerce Secretary but was forced to withdraw.
In the second Obama administration – many Latinos advocates are calling for even stronger Hispanic representation.
“We expect the president to have – at the very least – two Latino cabinet appointments but as a position we are renewing our request that he raises the number to a total of three Latino members.”
Hector Sanchez is the president of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda. He says he’s working with the administration to develop a catalog of qualified Latino candidates for appointment consideration.
Two names that are being talked about; Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and recently retired San Antonio Congressman Charlie Gonzalez.
Sanchez said Gonzalez has been brought up in a number of conversations.
“He’s a great leader – but we have a very healthy list of names for all the positions that may be available.”
Angelo Falcon, the president of the National Institute for Latino Policy, says Villaraigosa and Gonzalez are qualified to be Secretary of Commerce or Homeland Security. But Falcon said they are also working on finding qualified Latinos to fill undersecretary positions.
“Use this opportunity to raise the issue of Latino representation in subcabinet departments. Latino community has had a big problem with the federal government under Republican and Democrats that we are the most underrepresented group in federal government employment.”
Falcon said his biggest concern that Latinos will not have a place at the White House cabinet table when it’s time to cut down the federal budget.
“It’s extremely important for our community to be at the table in these major discussions. It’ll be important to have Latinos in key positions in the administration that can weigh in on these very very controversial issues that are going to have tremendous impact on our community.”
And Falcon said – if you aren’t at the table – you’re on the menu.
“After all this hype on the Latino vote – all of a sudden the dust settles and woomp – we’re still not at the table.”