As President-Elect Joe Biden looks to chart a very different course on public lands management than the current administration, he is eying five candidates from the Southwest – four with ties to New Mexico – as a potential secretary of the Interior nominee, according to The Washington Post:
Michael L. Connor, Former Interior deputy secretary
A graduate of New Mexico State University, Connor was deputy secretary at Interior from 2014 to 2017 and also worked in the department during the Clinton years. He served as counsel to the Senate committee on energy and natural resources during the Bush administration. Connor is currently a partner at the law firm WilmerHale.
Grijalva has been in Congress for more than 15 years and currently chairs the House Natural Resources Committee. He has been critical of how both the Bush and Trump administrations managed public land and opened access to the private sector.
Of the New Mexicans being considered for the job, the congresswomen from the state’s 1st Congressional District has the least experience in Congress, being first elected in 2018. But picking her would be historic. Haaland, an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Laguna, would be the first Native American to run the department charged with overseeing federal and tribal lands.
A member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, New Mexico’s other senator is also a proponent of clean energy and public land protections. One complicating factor for any of the state’s Cabinet hopefuls: If New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) becomes health and human services secretary, that might give Biden’s team pause about elevating another New Mexican to the Cabinet.
The senator from New Mexico is retiring from Congress this year, but has said he would consider joining the Biden administration. In recent years, Udall has been a loud advocate for conserving 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by the end of the decade and funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The choice would also be a nostalgic one; his father, Stewart Udall, was secretary of the department from 1961 to 1969 under two Democratic presidents.