After two withdrawn nominations to head the Commerce Dept., President Obama appears poised to take a third swing, naming former Washington Governor Gary Locke, who has a reputation as a wonkish, bland straight-shooter.
A White House official describes Obama as being "very close" to naming Locke, who is still undergoing final background checks. In a statement, John D. "Jay" Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), who heads the Senate Commerce Committee, says Locke would be a "phenomenal" choice for Commerce SecretaryGlobal Trade Advocate
Since leaving public life in 2005, Locke, the nation's first Chinese American governor, has traveled to his ancestors' homeland multiple times as a corporate lawyer, helping companies enter the Chinese market and developing connections in China's hierarchy. He also has been a champion of transportation spending and tax breaks, including a successful effort that convinced Boeing (BA) to build the 787 jetliner in Everett, Wash.
Obama is hoping to have better success with Locke than with his first two picks for Commerce. His No. 1 choice, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, a Democrat, announced his withdrawal in early January amid a grand jury investigation into how a corporate political donor won a lucrative state contract. Then, earlier this month, Obama tapped Senator Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), who initially accepted, but changed his mind after a week of reflection.
Locke, a Yale-educated lawyer and son of immigrants who was once an Eagle Scout, was known more as a wonk than a flashy politician, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. More recently, his work for law firm Davis Wright Tremaine and some large corporations has focused on energy and China.
Locke is also known as a budget-cutter—including taking the ax to social programs in Washington State—and a strong advocate of global trade.
In 2003, while delivering the Democratic response to President Bush's State of the Union address, Locke criticized the economic policies of Republicans as "upside-down." Instead, he urged hundreds of billions of dollars in investments and relief for the middle class.