VOLUME 28 NO. 10 | FEBRUARY 28 - MARCH 6, 2009


Locke a lock for cabinet
Exclusive NWAW interview with Locke's relatives

Last updated 2-26-09 at 3:00 p.m.
On Wednesday, Feb. 25, President chose Gary Locke as his secretary of commerce. After days of rumors, the news was confirmed at a press conference.
Photo by Pete Souza, provided by the White House

By Stacy Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly

On Wednesday, Feb. 25, President Obama confirmed what’s been buzzing around Seattle since Monday: Locke’s in the cabinet.

Multiple reports surfaced on Monday, Feb. 23 that Gary Locke would be Obama’s next pick for commerce secretary. Locke, though, was tight lipped. He made no comments about the rumors until they were made official. Calls placed to his office went unanswered. Calls to his cell phone went to voicemail, which was full.

Some speculated he wanted to wait until it was official to make an announcement. Other speculated that he was busy packing, as he and his wife Mona flew to D.C. from Seattle on Tuesday after supposedly being offered the position early Monday.

A source close to Locke, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Northwest Asian Weekly Publisher Assunta Ng on Tuesday, Feb. 24, that Locke interviewed with Obama in Chicago last November about the U.S. trade representative position, which was later filled by someone else. The source said that after Obama’s other two nominations for commerce secretary did not work out, the Washington state political machine — especially Sen. Maria Cantwell — lobbied for Locke.

Celia Lee, Locke’s mother-in-law, confirmed that the family will be moving to D.C. “[Mona Locke] would do anything to support Gary, although she would miss her job. She would sacrifice her career like she did when he was governor. They have looked at houses in D.C.” Mona Locke is the executive director of of Susan G. Komen for the Cure in Seattle.

In a NWAW story that ran on Nov. 13, when asked about a possible post in the Obama administration, Locke was reported as saying, “A lot of people think I’m talking to Obama, but I’m not. They refuse to believe me.”

In the same story, Locke did admit that “it’s hard to say ‘no’ when the president [himself] calls.”

On Wednesday morning, Obama made it official in a televized press conference. “Today, I’m pleased to announce that I’m filling out my economic team with a man who shares that vision and who will play a key role in carrying it out as my secretary of commerce, Governor Gary Locke,” he said.

When asked about what he thought of his seeing his son on national TV with Obama on Wednesday morning, Jimmy Locke laughed happily. Though he didn’t explicitly say he was proud, it was clear.

However, the elation is tinge with a little sadness. “We’re going to miss him,” said Jimmy Locke, but he admits that it’s a good kind of change.

NWAW initially tried to interview Jimmy Locke on Tuesday, but he deflected questions as the nomination hadn’t been made official at the time. On Wednesday, however, the elder Locke was the picture of excitement. He even said that his son may later run for president despite Gary Locke disputing this in November last year. When asked by NWAW if he had any aspirations in running for president, Locke answered with a clear and simple, “No.”

To the elder Locke, if one person of color can become president, so can “anyone else.”

“We’re very proud of him,” said Locke’s father-in-law Larry Lee. “He made a lot of good things happen for Washington state. He can’t really solve the economic problems right away, but he can help. ... He will bring glory to the Asian community.” Lee mentioned that Locke will take a significant pay cut for his new position.

Seattleite Frank Hori, 81, thinks Locke as commerce secretary is a good pick. “He is a good man,” Hori said. “He has experience dealing with trade in Asia. … He is trustable and is not a ‘politician.’”

Since leaving his office at the end of 2004 after two terms, Locke has been working for the Seattle-based law firm Davis Wright Tremaine on issues involving China, energy, and governmental relations.

If confirmed, Locke would be the third Asian American in Obama’s cabinet and the second Asian American to serve as secretary of commerce after Japanese American Norman Mineta.

Locke was born into an immigrant family and lived in a Seattle public housing project. He graduated from Yale University and Boston University Law School.

In 2003, while delivering the Democratic response to President Bush’s State of the Union address, Locke criticized the economic policies of Republicans as “upside-down.” He urged hundreds of billions of dollars in investments and relief for the middle class. (end)

Assunta Ng, Thi-Le Vo, The Associated Press, and The Seattle Times contributed to this report.

Stacy Nguyen can be reached at stacy@nwasianweekly.com.

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