Este informe no está disponible en español.

Chavez, Contoversial Choice, Withdraws As Labor Nominee

Chavez Withdraws As Labor Nominee

January 9, 2001
Copyright © 2001 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All Rights Reserved.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Linda Chavez withdrew Tuesday as President-elect Bush's nominee to be secretary of labor because of questions and controversy over an illegal immigrant who lived in her home in the early 1990s.

She stepped aside under pressure from Bush's political team, according to three Republican officials involved in the case.

There was no immediate word on a replacement.

Other prospects who had been on the Bush list for the labor department included Missouri Rep. Jim Talent, defeated nominee for governor of Missouri; Rep. Jennifer Dunn of Washington; and Rich Bond, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Chavez made her announcement at Bush transition headquarters.


Choice of Chavez As Labor Secretary Is Controversial One


JANUARY 3, 2001
Copyright © 2001 THE NEW YORK TIMES. All Rights Reserved.

WASHINGTON - Once a liberal Democrat who worked for the American Federation of Teachers, Linda Chavez, President-elect George W. Bush's pick as labor secretary, is now a staunch conservative who supports school vouchers.

A Hispanic from New Mexico who does not speak Spanish, Ms. Chavez served on the board of an organization advocating English as the country's official language, only to resign because she came to consider the group racist.

She opposes affirmative action but helped promote a book by Randall Kennedy, a liberal Harvard professor, that criticized police practices.

She likes to listen to Henryk Gorecki, the classical music composer, and Mick Jagger.

"I don't speak for anyone but Linda Chavez," she once told an interviewer who suggested she was a representative of Hispanic Americans.

When she does speak, it is with a strong conservative voice that has already brought cheers from many in the right wing of the Republican Party. They note that Ms. Chavez, who is 53, is one of the incoming Bush administration's few veterans of the Reagan administration, for which she was staff director of the United States Commission on Civil Rights from 1983 to 1985. She also joined the Reagan White House as director of public liaison in 1985.

"This is a stellar nomination," said Clint Bolick, vice president for litigation at the Institute for Justice, a libertarian public interest law firm. "I think she's going to be dynamite at Labor."

Mr. Bolick and other conservatives predicted that under Ms. Chavez, the Labor Department would scale back regulations – including those committing contractors to affirmative action – that they believe place a burden on employers.

But with a well-honed ability to confound those who want to pigeon- hole her, Ms. Chavez took the opportunity after Mr. Bush named her to say that as labor secretary she intended to "vigorously enforce the department's regulations to guarantee nondiscrimination by federal contractors."

Though she is intensely political, Ms. Chavez has never been elected to public office. In 1986, she was trounced in the Senate race in Maryland by Barbara A. Mikulski, a Democrat who still holds that seat.

In recent years, Ms. Chavez, a syndicated columnist, has taken polarizing positions in the debates about affirmative action, bilingual education and immigration.

Some of her more contentious views are set out in her 1991 book, "Out of the Barrio: Toward a New Politics of Hispanic Assimilation" (Basic Books). In it, she argued that Latinos were wrong to mimic the experience of African-Americans and seek entitlements like affirmative action to compensate for their disadvantages.

Ms. Chavez also believes it is the responsibility of government programs to help Latinos assimilate; should they seek to hold on to their own language and culture, she says, that is the job of community, nongovernmental organizations.

"The government should not be obliged to preserve any group's distinctive language or culture," she wrote. "Public schools should make sure that all children can speak, read and write English."

Her opposition to affirmative action has caused her to be vilified by civil rights groups and to be physically threatened when she has spoken on college campuses. That opposition – combined with her marriage to a Jew, Christopher Gersten, and the rearing of her three sons as Jews – have prompted some to term her a traitor to her people.

Even those who do not use such incendiary terms are extremely disdainful of her views.

"She's very smart and very talented, but she is completely out of the mainstream of the civil rights community and the Latino community," said Cecilia Muñoz, vice president for policy at the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy organization. "We view this as a highly controversial nomination."

Her association with those seeking an end to bilingual efforts by the government has, at least once, gotten her in hot water. In 1988, she resigned as president of US English, a group that sought to make English the United States' official language. Ms. Chavez was angered when it was disclosed that the group's founder, John H. Tanton, had written a memorandum in which he predicted that the nation would face a conflict between "a minority of educated, well- off English speakers and a majority of uneducated poor people of other ethnic and racial groups with faster population growth."

Some who hold centrist-to-liberal views on race and ethnicity issues have praised Ms. Chavez for her executive style.

Michael Myers, executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition, a centrist group, has served on the board of Ms. Chavez's organization, the Center for Equal Opportunity, since its inception in 1995. Ms. Chavez kept him on the board despite the opposition from conservatives who help finance the group.

Mr. Myers and some other liberals also note that Ms. Chavez's group often sponsors panel discussions and symposiums on racial issues in which those opposing her perspective are encouraged to debate.

"She likes to have an eclectic group of people around her who are not ad hominem in their argumentation, people who can make compelling arguments," Mr. Myers said.


PROFILE: Linda Chavez

BORN: June 17, 1947, Albuquerque.

HOMETOWN: Albuquerque.

EDUCATION: Cathedral High School, Denver; B.A., University of Colorado.

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Democratic National Committee, 1972-1974; editor, American Educator, 1977-1983; staff director, United States Commission on Civil Rights, 1983-1985; White House director of the office of public liaison, 1985-1986; president, US English, a lobbying group for English as the official language, 1987- 1988; reporter and commentator, WJL-TV, Baltimore, 1988; consultant, United Nations Subcommittee on Human Rights, 1992-1996; founder, Center for Equal Opportunity, 1995-present.

FAMILY: married to Christopher Gersten; three sons

HOBBIES: horse and nature lover, reading, popular and classical music.

Self-Determination Legislation | Puerto Rico Herald Home
Newsstand | Puerto Rico | U.S. Government | Archives
Search | Mailing List | Contact Us | Feedback