WASHINGTON, D.C. — The two Hispanics who quit President Obama’s Cabinet after serving his initial term soon will be heading back west.
Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, 55, first to reveal her intention to leave, heads to California on Jan. 22, “to return to the people and places I love.” Speculation has it that she will run for an open seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors next year.
Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, 57, plans to keep his Cabinet job through March before returning to his family’s native Colorado. He has revealed no future political intentions yet.
The duo submitted their resignations within a week of each other, Jan. 9 and Jan. 16. Both are popular with voters in their states, having represented them in Congress before earning high marks for their progressive Cabinet roles.
President Obama has already come under fire from Hispanic and other groups for nominating white males to fill three of the major vacant Cabinet positions—John Kerry for Secretary of State, Chuck Hagel for Defense, and Jack Lew for Treasury.
The White House is quietly messaging that two future Cabinet nominees will be Hispanic. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who chaired the National Democratic Convention, is among several candidates under consideration.
Obama praised Salazar’s leadership on his impending departure, “As the Secretary of the Interior, Ken has helped usher in a new era of conservation for our nation’s land, water and wildlife. He also made historic strides in strengthening our nation-to-nation relationship with Indian Country, helping to resolve longstanding disputes and make tribal communities safer and stronger. I have valued Ken’s friendship since we both entered the Senate in 2005, and I look forward to receiving his counsel even after he returns to Colorado.”
Latino Cabinet members Hilda Solis and Ken Salazar gain praise
The President earlier saluted Hilda Solis as “a tireless champion for working families,” while Hispanic and labor organization leaders were effusive in their praise of her accomplishments.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka expanded, “Secretary Solis brought urgently needed change to the Department of Labor, putting the U.S. government firmly on the side of working families…She never lost sight of her own working-class roots, and she always put the values of working families at the center of everything she did.”
Secretary Ken Salazar has worked on new energy, wildlife and environmental conservation. He is most noted for the moratorium of offshore drilling following the April 2012 British Petroleum spill.
Since 2009, Salazar has authorized 34 solar, wind and geothermal energy projects on public land. He also oversaw the establishment of the first program for offshore wind leasing and permitting in U.S. oceans.
U.S. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa of Texas, who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, praised Ken Salazar for bringing about a new era of commitment to renewable energy.
One of Sec. Salazar’s major accomplishments for the Hispanic community was his work toward the establishment of Cesar Estrada Chavez National Monument in Keene, California.
Speculation both in the capital and Golden State is that Hilda Solis, the daughter of immigrant Mexican and Nicaraguan parents, will continue to build on her successful public service and political career in the nation’s most populous state, where nearly 40 percent of its 38 million residents are of Latino heritage.
She is expected to run in 2014 for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors being vacated after that year by term-limited Gloria Molina, the lone Hispanic on the five-member body.
As U.S. Secretary of Labor, Solis focused her efforts on middle class families, women, workers and the environment. Nearly 700,000 workers were placed in new jobs through DOL’s Workforce Investment Act and Dislocated Worker programs during her tenure as the department invested $500 million in clean energy.
In April 2010, DOL’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) collected $50.6 million against British Petroleum following a refinery explosion that killed 15 people and injured 170 more in Texas. In 2012, it recovered about $280 million in back pay for some 300,000 workers.