What You Should Know About Gary Locke, Obama's Potential Commerce Secretary

Will former Washington governor Gary Locke be the next head of the Department of Commerce?

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The Washington Post is reporting that Gary Locke, governor of the state of Washington from 1997 to 2005, will soon be announced as President Obama's third (and final?) pick to head the Department of Commerce.

Locke would be a much more conventional choice for Obama than Gregg. The Democratic Party did much to promote him to the national stage. Most significantly, in 2003, Locke delivered the Democratic response to President Bush's State of the Union address--albeit a response that Matt Yglesias describes as "crappy." Still, in that speech Locke criticized Republican "upside-down" economic policies and called for $100 billion in investments and middle-class tax relief. He is almost certainly to be very supportive of Obama's economic policies, unlike Gregg.

Still, Locke has at least one thing in common with Gregg: a reputation as a budget cutter. Cooperating with Republican lawmakers, he cut Washington's budget, including cuts to social programs, in response to the post-9/11 economic malaise.

One area where Locke has a unique role to play as commerce secretary stems from the fact that he is Chinese-American.  If he serves, Locke will be the first Chinese-American commerce secretary. Part of Commerce's duties is promoting U.S. trade. Will Locke be able to approach China in a different way than previous administrations?

AFP gives some reasons to think so:

While at the governor's mansion he became known for boosting trade with China and Taiwan, embarking on a series of trade missions, meeting then president Jiang Zemin and building ties with current president Hu Jintao.

He also established a trade representative in Guangzhou -- a booming provincial capital in southern China.

No word yet, however, on the state of Locke's tax returns.

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