SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes is among the finalists to succeed resigning Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
"With so many stellar public servants on the shortlist, it's an honor to even be thought of as a possible replacement," Reyes, a Republican, said in a statement. "The president should know he has our support and prayers as he makes this very important decision."
Zinke, a former GOP Montana congressman, submitted his resignation to President Donald Trump over the weekend amid pressure to step down because of investigations tied to his real estate dealings in his home state and his conduct in office.
Reyes said Zinke did a "remarkable" job working with local officials in land management decisions.
"These public land decisions are core to the quality of life and economic health of people in Utah and across the western United States," Reyes said. "For western America, there will be few decisions as consequential as choosing the next secretary of the interior."
Reyes was in Washington, D.C. last week, but his office said it was for other reasons. He has been to Washington several times to talk about opioid abuse, the SafeUT app and veterans programs.
Reyes, who endorsed Trump in the 2016 election, also was on the list to head the Federal Trade Commission last year. He supported Trump's order downsizing Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments last December, saying the president took a "historic step to correct the hubris of past administrations."
"We are hopeful that our elected representatives in Washington, D.C. will pass legislation that makes political games with Utah’s public lands less likely in the future," he said then.
The Washington Post reported Saturday that the White House may also consider Rep. Rob Bishop, who will lose his chairmanship of the House Natural Resources Committee when the new Congress begins in January. He has said he will not seek re-election in 2020.
Bishop in a statement Monday didn't say whether he's interested in the position.
“Whoever is selected as the next secretary of the interior, they must continue addressing the maintenance backlog on public lands, continue the effort to reorganize the department, and continue to engage state and local officials," he said in the statement.26 comments on this story
Zinke had the vision to start that process and his successor must have the know-how to bring it to a conclusion, Bishop said.
Bloomberg put Reyes on a list of possible contenders for the U.S. Department of Interior job that includes Cynthia Lummis, a former Wyoming congresswoman; departing Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho; Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt; Idaho Gov. Butch Otter; Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who lost his re-election bid in November; Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers R-Wash., and outgoing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
Interior secretaries have typically come from western states.