Colorado Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia is a leading candidate to become secretary of labor, sources familiar with the situation told Reuters Thursday.
Garcia, a Democrat and former president of Colorado State University-Pueblo, would replace Hilda Solis, a fellow Hispanic who is stepping down and returning to California. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, another Latino from Colorado, is also leaving the Cabinet.
Barack Obama, the first black president, has faced criticism for selecting white men to fill the top Cabinet vacancies at the departments of state, defense and treasury. (Although Attorney General Eric Holder is staying on.)
Garcia's pick would highlight the importance of Latinos -- a hugely influential voting bloc -- and of Colorado, a key swing state that supported Obama in the 2008 and 2012 elections.
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Spokesmen for Garcia and the White House both declined to comment.
Gov. John Hickenlooper’s spokesman Eric Brown told FOX31 Denver Thursday afternoon that, while they won’t comment on who the White House may be considering for the Cabinet, they’re happy to praise Garcia.
“Joe Garcia is one of the most extraordinary individuals I’ve worked with,” Hickenlooper said in a statement. “Everything he does he excels at, and that record has led him from humble beginnings to Harvard Law School and the office of lieutenant governor. We would hate to lose him, but our loss without question would be the nation’s gain.”
The promotion to lead a federal government agency would be a big jump for Garcia, who rose rapidly from a career in higher education to become Hickenlooper's No. 2.
Hickenlooper picked Garcia to be his running mate in 2010. Once in office, he made Garcia executive director of Colorado's Department of Higher Education in addition to his lieutenant governor role.
Garcia was credited with revitalizing student enrollment, improving finances and strengthening the reputation of Colorado State University-Pueblo.