WASHINGTON - Barack Obama, soon to be the first black U.S. president, is on the road to making good his pledge to have a cabinet and White House staff that are among the most diverse ever, though some supporters are asking him to go even further.
He added to the minority representation at the top of his administration yesterday when he nominated New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who is Hispanic, to be commerce secretary.
But some Latinos are grumbling that it is not enough after all the support they gave him in the campaign, and gays and Asian Americans are pushing for some representation in remaining cabinet announcements. But overall, Obama is allaying some early concerns that a black president would not need to attach so much importance to diversity among those working under him.
"The question was: Because he's black, how much pressure would he feel to be more traditional with appointments?" said Jamal Simmons, a Democratic consultant who worked with the Obama campaign. "The leadership of the campaign in the beginning wasn't very diverse, so there were questions about that. But I don't hear those questions anymore."
In Obama's seven cabinet announcements so far, white men are the minority with two nominations: Timothy Geithner in the Treasury Department and Robert M. Gates at Defense. Three are women: Janet Napolitano as homeland security secretary, Susan Rice as United Nations ambassador, and Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state.
The U.N. ambassadorship is not a cabinet post under President Bush, but it was under former President Bill Clinton, and Obama said it would be again in his administration. His nominee, Susan Rice, is black, as is attorney general nominee Eric Holder.
Two Democrats familiar with the transition said Lisa Jackson, a former commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, had emerged as the front-runner to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Jackson, who coleads Obama's EPA transition team, would be the first black EPA administrator. The two Democrats requested anonymity because the deliberations are supposed to be private.
Bush and Clinton also made a point of diversity in their cabinets when they moved into the White House.
Bush's first cabinet had four women, two Asian Americans, two blacks and one Hispanic. Clinton, who promised to appoint a cabinet that "looks like America," had three women, two Hispanics and four blacks when he took office.
Latino groups applauded the selection of Richardson, though some expressed disappointment that the Mexican American governor had not been chosen for secretary of state.
A reporter from the Spanish-language television network Telemundo asked Obama to respond to Hispanics' concerns that there were not more Latinos advising him and that Richardson had gotten the "consolation prize."
Obama responded that he had appointed only about half the cabinet and thought that when he was done, "people are going to say this is one of the most diverse cabinet and White House staffs of all time."
Obama transition head John Podesta has been meeting with Hispanic groups and hearing their suggestions for other Latinos who could be considered for high-level administration positions. Democratic officials say Rep. Xavier Becerra (D., Calif.) is the leading contender to be U.S. trade representative.
Latinos are the largest minority group in the country, making up 15 percent of the population, and helped Obama win in key battleground states such as New Mexico and Florida.
61; born Nov. 15, 1947, in Pasadena, Calif.
New Mexico governor since 2003; U.S. energy secretary, 1998-2001; ambassador to the United Nations, 1997-98; U.S. House member, 1983-97.
B.A., Tufts University, 1970; M.A., Tuft's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, 1971.
In central Alabama's
Perry County, government workers get a day off for Presidents Day, Martin Luther King's Birthday, and Veterans Day. In 2009, they will get one more: Barack Obama Day.
The rural county,
which overwhelmingly supported Obama in the Nov. 4 election, has approved a measure that will close county offices on the second Monday of November each year, giving roughly 40 workers a paid day off.
is intended to highlight Obama's victory as a way to give people faith that difficult goals can be achieved, sponsoring County Commissioner Albert Turner Jr. said.
Perry County has
12,000 residents, most of them black, and more than 70 percent of its voters backed Obama. Statewide, Republican John McCain got 60 percent of the vote, largely due to strong support from white voters.