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New name surfaces as possible Interior pick

Kevin Gover, former ASU law professor

Kevin Gover

Kevin Gover

With President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team still mulling over a nominee for secretary of the Interior, the jockeying in Washington, D.C., appears to be at a fever pitch.

Citing unnamed sources, the Washington Post reported that “Obama may be weighing some dark-horse alternatives to the longtime front-runners, Rep. Raúl Grijalva, a Tucson Democrat, and Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif.”

“Grijalva faced some hiccups in recent days and fell off the shortlist,” the Post reported.

“Thompson, meanwhile, has been hit by a barrage of environmentalist attacks in recent days for his ties to industry groups and his love of hunting.”

A new name swirled into the online rumor mill Monday: Kevin Gover, a former Arizona State University law professor who is now director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.

Gover, who is Pawnee and Comanche, was assistant secretary for Indian Affairs in the Clinton administration.

A spokesman for Gover’s office denied that he is in the running.

“There’s no truth to the rumor,” said Eileen Maxwell, director of public affairs for the museum.

Obama is expected to announce a nominee within days. Environmental and industry leaders said the transition team has been tight-lipped during the selection process.

“I think this one (appointment) has been pretty closely held,” said Carol Raulston, senior vice president with the National Mining Association.

Sandy Bahr, director of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter, said the vetting process involves letters, whispering campaigns and lobbying behind the scenes. The Sierra Club has not endorsed a nominee.

Grijalva, as chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, issued a scathing condemnation of the Bush administration’s public-land policies in October. He is backed by Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.V., chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, and by major Hispanic groups nationally.

Thompson, an outdoorsman, has the support of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as well as dozens of national hunting and fishing groups such as Ducks Unlimited and Wildlife Forever.

Grijalva’s chief aide, Natalie Luna, said Tuesday afternoon that Grijalva’s staffers had not heard anything “positive or negative” regarding the nomination.

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