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Gary Locke introduced by Obama as choice for Commerce secretary

Locke, a Democrat and former two-term governor of Washington, says America's economic success depends on 'continuing to lead in technology and innovation.'

February 26, 2009|Mark Silva

WASHINGTON — President Obama on Wednesday nominated Gary Locke to be secretary of Commerce, saying that the former Washington governor would serve as an ambassador for American industry abroad.

Locke, the nation's first Chinese American governor when he took office in 1997, is the president's third pick for Commerce secretary. His first two choices -- New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, and New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg, a Republican -- withdrew. Richardson cited a probe of state contracting, Gregg political differences with Obama.

"I'm sure it's not lost on anyone that we've tried this a couple of times. But I'm a big believer in keeping at something until you get it right. And Gary is the right man for this job," Obama said.

Joining the president for the announcement, Locke, a Democrat, said, "Our nation's economic success is tied directly to America continuing to lead in technology and innovation, and in exporting those products, services and ideas to nations around the globe. The Department of Commerce plays a critical role in nurturing innovation, expanding global markets, protecting and managing our ocean fisheries, and fostering economic growth."

Locke, 59, has experience in trade matters. He is a partner in the Seattle office of the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine.

A son of Chinese immigrants, Locke was elected governor in 1996, becoming the first Asian American governor on the mainland. In 2000, he was overwhelmingly reelected to a second term, which ended in 2005.

The president should have an easy time winning Senate confirmation of the former governor. But questions surrounding the administration's intentions in connection with the 2010 census have raised concern among Republican critics.

Gregg had voiced concern about the White House's planned involvement in the census, which is run by the Commerce Department.

"To be more than a figurehead, Gov. Locke must promise to keep politics out of the census," Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), said this week.

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mdsilva@tribune.com

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