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Several interested in replacing Becerra

December 04, 2008|Dan Morain and Phil Willon | Morain and Willon are Times staff writers.

LOS ANGELES AND SACRAMENTO — Potential candidates are jockeying to run for Xavier Becerra's congressional seat as word spreads that President-elect Barack Obama is considering him as U.S. trade representative.

Names include Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina, state Sen. Gil Cedillo and Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti, each of whom represents parts of Becerra's district, which includes the heart of Los Angeles.

"I am definitely considering it," said Cedillo, who has represented the area for the last decade as an assemblyman and senator.

"I am beginning the process of consulting people who have supported me over the years, including my family," he said.

Cedillo, who has significant labor ties, has become most identified with efforts to help illegal immigrants obtain driver's licenses. He said that if he were elected to the House of Representatives, he would use it as a "platform to bring immigrants into our society."

Garcetti said it was premature to speculate on a possible run but did not rule it out.

Molina could not be reached for comment.

Other possible candidates include Assemblymen Kevin de Leon and John Perez.

Becerra, 50, ran unopposed for his ninth term in November.

Aides to Obama and Becerra would not confirm that the position of trade representative had been offered. But news reports from Washington identified Becerra as Obama's selection.

The trade representative negotiates new trade agreements and revisions to existing ones, including the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Obama has criticized.

If he got the position, Becerra would be giving up two coveted posts. He recently was elected vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, and he is rising in seniority on the powerful tax-writing Ways and Means Committee.

Becerra, a Stanford-educated attorney, ran for Los Angeles mayor in 2001.

Obama, meanwhile, appointed another political figure with downtown Los Angeles roots, former Assemblyman Louis Caldera, as director of the White House Military Office. He will oversee about 2,000 military personnel who provide services for the president.

Caldera, a Harvard-educated attorney and West Point graduate, represented Los Angeles in the 1990s before joining President Clinton's administration, ultimately becoming Army secretary. Most recently, Caldera was teaching at the University of New Mexico law school.

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dan.morain@latimes.com

phil.willon@latimes.com

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