Richardson withdrawal raises hopes of gay nominee for Obama’s top team

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

An American organisation that promotes lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people in government has suggested that President-elect Obama nominate a gay man as Commerce Secretary.

Some activists complained after the new President failed to nominate any LGBT people to his Cabinet.

Yesterday the nominee for Commerce Secretary, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, withdrew.

He said a federal investigation into political donations from a company awarded contracts by the New Mexico state government would not be completed in time for him to begin work.

Equal Rep, “a grassroots political organisation committed to full representation of GLBT-identified people in all facets of government,” has urged the President-elect to nominate Fred Hochberg.

“In more than 200 years, the United States Cabinet has never included an openly gay member,” the group said in a statement.

“Growing national focus on GLBT civil rights has therefore made the Secretary of Commerce appointment a national issue in the struggle for equal representation.

“Fred Hochberg is the most qualified candidate for the job.

“Mr Hochberg has more than 25 years of experience in business, government, civil rights activities, and philanthropy.

“From 1998 through 2000, he served as deputy then acting administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA), an agency elevated to Cabinet rank by President Bill Clinton.

“At the SBA, he directed the delivery of a comprehensive set of financial and business development programmes for entrepreneurs, with particular outreach to women and minorities.

“He also served on President Clinton’s Management Council.”

Equal Rep is urging Americans to contact the Barack Obama transition team and express support for Mr Hochberg.

“It was devastating to learn that gay Americans wouldn’t have a seat at the table within Barack Obama’s Cabinet administration,” said said Paul Sousa, Equal Rep founder.

“They are the only minority group to have never been appointed in the history of the United States.

“Mr Hochberg is supremely qualified and this opening is the perfect opportunity for our President-elect to show gay Americans they have not been forgotten and he is truly committed to equal representation.”

This is Equal Rep’s third campaign urging President-elect Obama to appoint LGBT people to senior positions.

Last week it urged people to show support for William White as the next Secretary of the Navy, a sub-Cabinet position, with phone calls and emails to the new President.

The group also backed Mary Beth Maxwell as Secretary of Labour – the nomination for that role went to United States Congresswoman Hilda Solis.

A group that funds lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans candidates for political office in the US expressed disappointment at the makeup of President-elect Barack Obama’s proposed Cabinet.

Last month Chuck Wolfe, president of the Lesbian and Gay Victory Fund, told the Washington Blade:

“As we talk about either keeping or renewing America’s promise, which the President-elect has been talking about, apparently it does not yet extend to gay and lesbian people in the Cabinet of the President.”