Although he was reelected for a sixth term last month, State Representative Mike Thompson may be leaving the U.S. House of Representatives when the new administration takes over on Jan. 20.
Davis’s congressional representative is being considered for the post of Secretary of the Interior in President-elect Barack Obama’s cabinet.
As Secretary of the Interior, Thompson would be responsible for overseeing agencies like the Bureau of Land Management, which manages 258 million acres of government-owned land in the U.S. The Secretary also oversees departments like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Parks Service.
UC Davis junior Ryan Loney, the Northern California regional director of Students for Barack Obama, said Thompson’s ability to represent the diverse interests of California’s First Congressional District make him a great candidate for the position.
“I think he would do a great job because he has cross-over appeal for interest groups that don’t usually get along,” Loney said. “We’re not going to need someone who can reach across party lines, but someone who can reach across interests.”
Loney said these interest groups include conservation groups as well as the hunting and fishing constituency. In representing the First Congressional District, Thompson has been responsible for the interests of the area’s logging industry, Napa’s wine making industry and a variety of other groups. Loney also said Obama has expressed interest in having a sportsman or sportswoman as the Secretary of the Interior, which Thompson is.
Thompson was put on the short list thanks to endorsements from interest groups including Ducks Unlimited, as well as colleagues in the House. There are three other candidates for the position, and Thompson has not received any definite offer.
“It’s an honor to be recognized by the many groups I’ve worked with over the years, but no one associated with President-elect Obama has contacted me,” Thompson said in a statement.
Former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, former Alaska Governor Tony Knowles and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson are also being considered for the position.
According to Mark Lubell, a UCD professor in the department of environmental science and policy, Thompson is qualified for the position but may not be as likely a choice as some of the other candidates.
“Thompson has gotten some support from the hook and bullet crowd, but there are some other groups that are more important,” Lubell said. “I’m not sure it’s a big enough difference in comparison to the others.”
No matter who fills the spot, Lubell said he expects the next Secretary of the Interior to make some dramatic changes according to Obama’s policy line.
“There will be more focus on conservation and less on mineral extraction,” Lubell said. “I expect Thompson or whoever’s in there to take that sort of line.”
If Thompson is appointed to the position, it will leave a vacancy in Congress. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger would have to call an emergency election, and the First Congressional District would elect a new representative to Congress.
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