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Raul Grijalva Cabinet Hopes Boosted By Strong Hispanic Support

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Most of the nation may not recognize the name Raul Grijalva. But key supporters are letting President-Elect Barack Obama know that when it comes to Secretary of the Interior, the three term congressman from Arizona's 7th Congressional District is their number one choice.

A front page article in today's edition of the Arizona Daily Star states that leaders from a number of national Hispanic organizations met with officials from Obama's transition team and expressed their support for Grijalva. According to the article:

Groups represented at the meeting included the league of United Latin American Citizens. the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project, and the Hispanic Federation.

Grijalva easily won re-election again in November 2008. He has a strong community background, serving on the Tucson Unified School District governing board for twelve years before being elected to the Pima County Board of Supervisors in 1988, he was first elected to Congress in 2002. In contrast to Senator John McCain, Grijalva is a native Arizonan, born and raised in Tucson. His father was born in Mexico, and came to the United States in 1945 as part of the 'Bracero Program;' a U.S. government effort to bring experienced ranch hands to the United States to offset those serving in World War II.

Grijalva was an early supporter of Barack Obama, something he shares in common with Obama's other Cabinet pick from the Grand Canyon State, Governor Janet Napolitano. But early on in the race for president, Grijalva backed another candidate-former Senator John Edwards. In January of 2008 Grijalva threw his support behind Obama in a very public fashion; before Governor Napolitano, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg and Obama took the stage at a packed and enthusiastic rally in Phoenix, it was Raul Grijalva who served as the opening speaker, praising Obama's leadership and compassion.

The support of Hispanic leaders certainly doesn't hurt Grijalva's chances of joining Napolitano as a pick for the new Cabinet. Obama is well aware of the role played by the Hispanic community in his historic win, especially in Southwestern states, and it's been widely reported that the eyes of the Hispanic community are watching his cabinet picks with great interest, hoping for solid representation. This was amply demonstrated at this week's press conference when Obama fielded a pointed question from reporter Vicente Serrano from Telemundo Chicago, who asked if New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson's nomination for Secretary of Commerce was a 'consilation prize' for Hispanics who had hoped to see him nominated for Secretary of State. In his answer Obama praised Richardson and discussed the importance of the Secretary of Commerce position, and he also assured Serrano that his staff and Cabinet will be "one of the most diverse Cabinets and White House staffs of all time." Richardson himself made sure to underscore that point, by delivering part of his speech at the press conference in Spanish.

As his name continues to be mentioned for the Cabinet appointment, Grijalva may also have recent history on his side. Daniel Weiss of the progressive think tank Center for American Progress noted in today's Daily Star article that since the term of John F. Kennedy, all Interior Secretaries in Democratic administrations have come from Grijalva's part of the country, and two have been from Grijalval's home state: Idahoan Cecil Andrus (who served under Jimmy Carter) and Arizonans Stewart Udall (Kennedy and Johnson administrations) and Bruce Babbitt (under Bill Clinton).