President-elect George Bush, having named his White House chief of staff and a new GOP chairman, asked the nation's governors for their input Friday, saying he wants to "work with the governors."
One of them, John Sununu of New Hampshire, is Bush's selection for chief of staff, so he is known to all but the newly elected state leaders invited to Friday's National Governors Association executive committee meeting at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.Bush, appearing with 17 governors outside the school's rotunda, said he hoped his selection of Sun-unu sends a strong signal "of my interest in having strong input from the governors.
"I hope this visit today shows I want to work with the governors," Bush said.
Democratic Gov. Gerald Baliles of Virginia called the meeting with Bush "very full, friendly and free" and said, "The vice president asked for the governors' help and he'll get it."
Along with the announcement of Sununu's new job Thursday, Bush also chose his feisty campaign manager, Lee Atwater, to become the next Republican National Committee chairman. Atwater, 37, is certain to be elected when the RNC meets Jan. 18. He will replace Frank Fah-renkopf, who has held the position for six years and who said he plans to return to his law practice in Washington.
Joined at a news conference Thursday by Sununu, Atwater and Fahrenkopf, Bush highlighted the governor's experience as a teacher, businessman and politician and said he will be able to "build a constructive relationship" with Congress.
The president-elect met Thursday afternoon with his senior advisers to review additional personnel decisions, with no further major announcements expected until after he returns from a Thanksgiving stay in Maine.
Some Bush aides thought the coveted post, often viewed as the second-most powerful job in Washington, should have gone to Craig Fuller, 37, who has been the vice president's staff chief since April 1985.
But though they waged an active campaign on Fuller's behalf, sources said Bush never wavered from his decision to tap Sununu, seen as having greater political stature by virtue of being elected to three terms as governor.
Still, there was a cost to Bush's choice; Fuller announced immediately that he plans to return to the private sector after completing work as co-chairman of Bush's transition team.
Fuller said he told the vice president before the election that he would serve "enthusiastically" if offered the chief of staff's job but otherwise would return to private life.