Utahn Richard Richards is on a list of four people that a group of Western senators are recommending as U.S. secretary of the interior.
The name of Richards, the former national Republican Party chairman who is now a consultant in Washington, has been floating in the rumor mill for weeks as a possible candidate for the job.But he has said in recent interviews that he really doesn't want the job and would rather be "something like an ambassador" instead. But he has not said he would turn down the job if offered. Richards was not immediately available for comment about the latest list.
Word about the list from Western senators came out of the office of Rep. Barbara Vucanovich, R-Nev., who is also one of the four people on the list for interior secretary.
Her press secretary, Stephanie Hanna, said her office was told that besides Richards and Vucanovich, the list also included former Rep. John Rhodes of Arizona and Warren Morton, the former speaker of the Wyoming House.
"I'm not sure how many senators signed the list or who they were," Hanna said. But an aide to one of the senators notified Vucanovich's office of its contents and said the list was presented to President-elect Bush earlier this week.
Hanna also said that the names are apparently not listed in any order of preference. "None of the names had unanimous approval from the group," she said, but senators said any were capable and qualified.
She said the senators emphasized that they want a Westerner overseeing the Interior Department because he or she would understand issues important to the West - where much of the nation's public land is.
Mary Jane Collipriest, press secretary for Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, said Western senators met Tuesday to draw up the list. She said Garn was in California at the time but was aware beforehand of the names being considered. Garn said all are "great, solid candidates" and he would be pleased to see any of them serve.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, was not immediately available Thursday for comment about the list.