Obama's New Commerce Pick Has Clean Reputation President Barack Obama named former Washington Gov. Gary Locke as his Commerce secretary. Locke, an Asian-American, is Obama's third pick for the job. Locke served two terms as Washington's governor. He now works at a Seattle-based law firm.
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Obama's New Commerce Pick Has Clean Reputation

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Obama's New Commerce Pick Has Clean Reputation

Obama's New Commerce Pick Has Clean Reputation

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

Reporter Tom Banse has covered Gary Locke since his days in the state legislature and has this profile.

TOM BANSE: President Obama's initial picks for Commerce abruptly withdrew. The whiff of a possible state contracting scandal knocked out New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. Then the next pick, Republican Senator Judd Gregg, had second thoughts over political differences with the president. Mr. Obama has got to be hoping the third time will be the charm.

BARACK OBAMA: Now, 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.

BANSE: To the click of dozens of cameras, Mr. Obama said he settled on Gary Locke based on the former governor's record of job creation and trade promotion in Washington state.

OBAMA: So Gary will be a trusted voice in my Cabinet, a tireless advocate for our economic competitiveness and an influential ambassador for American industry.

BANSE: In his home state, Gary Locke has a reputation as a policy wonk and a strong manager. A longtime friend from the state legislature, Denny Heck, says Locke also brings a squeaky clean reputation.

DENNIS HECK: And I would imagine coming off of the last two candidates they had that didn't quite work out, Eagle Scout Gary Locke was probably pretty darned appealing to them. He's clean as a whistle.

BANSE: Democrats in Congress expect a smooth confirmation. However, Republicans will probably ask the former governor about sloppy handling of cash donations to his 1996 campaign. Gary Locke became the nation's first Chinese-American governor when he was elected to the first of two terms in 1996. He rode a compelling personal story into office.

GARY LOCKE: It took our family 100 years to move that one mile, a journey possible only in America.

BANSE: Joe Borich directs the Washington State China Relations Council. Borich traveled with Locke on two trade missions to Asia. He says the former governor has enormous cache in China.

JOSEPH J: Yes, he drew very big crowds everywhere he went in China. And that doesn't mean that everything that the Commerce Department or the Obama administration or Secretary Locke himself might hope for is going to be realized, but I think that the choice of Gary as Commerce secretary will benefit American business interests in China.

BANSE: For NPR News, I'm Tom Banse in Olympia, Washington.

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