President Obama Wednesday named former Washington Gov. Gary Locke as his choice to head the Commerce Department, the third time he has tried to fill the Cabinet position.
"I'm a big believer in keeping at something until you get it right," Obama said before making the announcement. Two previous candidates — New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire — dropped out before the Senate confirmation process began.
Locke, 59, is the nation's first Chinese-American governor. "My family's story is America's story," he said, noting he lived in public housing as a child and his parents worked in the family's neighborhood grocery store. He said his grandfather worked as a servant when he came to the United States 100 years ago.
"I embrace this opportunity to serve the American people," he said.
Locke has a long history of public service. He was a deputy criminal prosecutor in King County, Wash., from 1976 to 1980 and served in the Washington state legislature for 11 years. He was elected governor in 1997 and served two terms.
Locke has significant experience working with business and trade issues. As governor, he oversaw a state with a diverse economy that included corporate giants Boeing and Microsoft. China is a major focus in his law practice, and he was instrumental in bringing Chinese President Hu Jintao to Seattle to meet with business and state officials in what was Hu's first visit to the United States.
The president's first two attempts to fill the Commerce Department job ended with the candidates withdrawing. Richardson withdrew in January because of an investigation into New Mexico contracting practices. Gregg, a Republican, cited ideological differences when he pulled out earlier this month.
Obama has yet to name someone to head the Department of Health and Human Services. His first choice for the job, former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle, withdrew because of a controversy over tax problems. Among those reportedly being considered is Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat.