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Posts published in “Day: February 23, 2009”

Locke to Commerce, between the lines


Gary Locke

Assuming that today's news reports are right and former Washington Governor Gary Locke will be President Barack Obama's third choice - does he break the jinx? - for commerce secretary, what lessons might come out of that? What would it mean that Locke, out of active politics for more than four years and never a major national figure, is the nominee for a cabinet seat in the middle of economic catastrophe? And does it indicate anything about Washington, or the Northwest?

Those answers may appear somewhat through evolution. But a few ideas suggest themselves.

Locke was administrator of King County, an elective job, and twice elected governor of Washington, popular enough that he was expected to run for an win a third term, which in 2004 he declined to do. Those successes came in times less propitious for Democrats than they are now, and they point to both some political dexterity and to a core centrism. Locke's politics and approach seemed to be within the Democratic mainstream, taken as a whole. But he also aggravated Democrats at times, and during rough budget times earlier this decade, agreeing to substantial cuts and resisting calls for tax increases.

More specifically on point, he was active in economic development, both by way of frequent and extensive trade missions to Asia and in working with (some thought surrendering too much to) Boeing, in an effort to keep major construction projects in the Puget Sound (an effort mostly but not wholly successful). His law practice since involves general governmental relations but also some emphasis on trade relations with China. That happens to a point of some interest to the Obama Administration, considering where newly-minted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has gone on her first trip as such overseas.

Putting it together: A Commerce secretary able to go out and sell programs in a broad way, with some instinct toward the political center, and with strong interest in Asian relations and trade (and capable of building some strong interest in that area owing to his ancestry). There's a certain logic to it.

And, oh yeah, he'd be the third Northwesterner appointed to a major administration spot. The area might not be quite so underrepresented.