Now that former Utahn Richard Richards is on the short list of those still in the running for U.S. secretary of the Interior, he says he would accept the job if it were offered to him.
Richards told the Deseret News on Friday, "If the president, who is the sole decision maker in the case, asks me to do it, I would be honored and in all likelihood accept the call." He added that he still is not lobbying for the post.Richards' name has floated for weeks as a likely choice for the position, but he said in previous interviews that he really didn't want the job and would rather be an ambassador. He did not say previously whether he would accept it if offered.
"It looks like my chances are one in four, something like that," he said, referring to a list of four names suggested to Bush by Western senators for Interior secretary.
Others on that list include Rep. Barbara Vucanovich, R-Nev.; former Arizona Rep. John Rhodes; and Warren Morton, former speaker of the Wyoming House.
The group of Western senators - among them Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah - sent the names without an order of preference to Bush, saying they strongly want a Westerner who understands Western land issues to oversee the Interior Department. They said any of the four on the list are qualified, capable and acceptable.
How does Richards see his chances now? "I have no idea how they are. I presume the wild card is what the president wants to do about a woman in the Cabinet. Does he want to get his woman from Interior or from some other committee, I think that's a factor. But I don't know the criteria he will use, and I haven't asked anybody."
Of course, Vucanovich is the only woman on the list for Interior secretary, which could help her.
Richards, an Ogden native who has a long interest in Interior affairs, admitted that even though he says he is not lobbying for the job, he would enjoy it.
"I think it's a tough job, but I would enjoy it," he said.
Richards served this year as a senior campaign adviser to Bush. One of his business partners, Utahn Steve Studdert, also was a senior adviser to Bush and is now directing his inaugural committee.
Richards is also a former chairman of the National Republican Party, as was Bush. He is a former state party chairman, once ran unsuccessfully for Congress in Utah and was an aide to former Rep. Laurence Burton, R-Utah. He is now a Washington-based attorney and consultant.