Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he will step down from his cabinet post by the end of March and return to his home state of Colorado.
"Ken has helped usher in a new era of conservation for our nation's land, water and wildlife," the president said in a statement, while also playing "an integral role in my administration's successful efforts to expand responsible development of our nation's domestic energy resources."
Congressional Quarterly this week relayed potential candidates. The handicapping of his potential successor seems relatively wide open. Much of the speculation has focused on Deputy Secretary David Hayes, but he could face another drawn-out confirmation fight (he had trouble in 2009) because of the environmentally liberal policies he pushed when he was at the World Wildlife Fund, at the Progressive Policy Institute and in the Clinton administration. He's also a middle-aged white male (and a New Yorker), and Obama is under pressure to assemble a demographically diverse senior team for his second term. Interior is also traditionally a post given to someone from the West, because of the enormous amounts of federal land in the region. Those factors could elevate the prospects of Christine Gregoire, who just stepped down after two terms as governor of Washington, if she is not tapped to run EPA instead. Other Westerners in the mix are former North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan, former Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal and Rep. Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, who was a finalist for Interior four years ago but lost out because he was viewed as too liberal to win easy confirmation.
Reprinted in part from Congressional Quarterly