WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sally Jewell’s nomination as Interior secretary Wednesday dimmed former Gov. Chris Gregoire’s odds of joining President Obama’s Cabinet — at least numerically.
Gregoire was widely believed to be in the running for the job that went to REI’s chief executive. That leaves only a half-dozen Cabinet-level vacancies, including at the Environmental Protection Agency and the energy, labor, transportation and commerce departments.
Could two women from the same state get posts in the same Cabinet?
“I think it’s rare,” said James Thurber, director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University.
Norm Ornstein, a congressional scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., said Jewell’s ascension shouldn’t necessarily knock Gregoire out of the running. But he said the simple math of job hunting got a little more difficult.
“Region does matter, but so do many other factors to provide balance, and by all accounts the White House likes Gregoire,” he said. “But there are a lot of claimants for a few Cabinet openings.”
Gregoire, who left office last month, has served two terms as governor, three terms as state attorney general and a stint as state director of ecology.
She bucked political pressure to endorse Obama over Hillary Rodham Clinton in the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries.
Two years later, the Obama administration briefly considered Gregoire as a possible nominee for U.S. solicitor general.
Fred Olson, a former top Gregoire aide, spoke to Gregoire on Wednesday about Jewell’s appointment.
“She said she’s just pleased someone from Washington is going to be heading Interior,” he said.
Olson said Gregoire has had one conversation with the president about possible roles in the administration “but nothing specific.”
“She is really kind of enjoying herself, taking some quiet time right now,” he said. “I don’t think she’s really settled on what to do in the future.”