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Archive for Wednesday, December 20, 2000

Push is on for Cabinet post

Graves’ backers want governor in Bush administration

December 20, 2000

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— Gov. Bill Graves says a lobbying effort is under way to get President-elect Bush to name him as secretary of transportation.

Graves said Tuesday night that a half-dozen people have called him, seeking permission to put his name before Bush's transition team. Graves declined to name the people, though he did acknowledge they were transportation industry officials.

"I've had a number of very kind, considerate phone calls from people," Graves said.

Graves, a Republican and longtime friend of the Bush family, also said that he made it clear to the people who want to lobby for him that he isn't actively campaigning for a Cabinet job.

However, he is not discouraging their efforts, saying of a Cabinet position, "That's not an offer you'd disregard."

Still, Graves played down the notion that Bush will offer him a job, noting that no one on the transition team has contacted him.

"I think we ought to enjoy Christmas and not get too wound up about it," he said.

The governor's comments came after a day of speculation about his future and whether business representatives were lobbying the Bush team on Graves' behalf.

"What you're hearing about and seeing is a reflection of some people who have contacted me and said, 'We believe you have qualifications, qualities that would serve the nation well as secretary of transportation. We would like to acknowledge to the transition team that we think they should seriously consider you,"' he said.

Lt. Gov. Gary Sherrer said he is not surprised by the lobbying. Sherrer would become governor if Graves, serving his last term, resigned to take a job in Bush's Cabinet.

Graves worked for the aborted presidential campaign of Bush's father in 1980, when Ronald Reagan won. Former President Bush made a campaign appearance for Graves when he first ran for Kansas governor in 1994. The same year, George W. Bush was elected Texas governor.

"He's probably being looked at very closely by the Bush people," Sherrer said. "They know him."

In response to questions from reporters, Graves' office issued a brief statement saying the governor is flattered by the lobbying efforts.

"If the president-elect calls, you take the call," the statement said. "If the president-elect asks you to serve, you serve."

Three weeks ago, Graves dismissed the idea of serving in the Cabinet and said he intends to leave office when his second term ends in January 2003.

In Kansas, trucking companies have been among Graves' most reliable political supporters. His family started a truck line and sold the company in 1979.

Last year, Graves won legislative approval of a 10-year, $13 billion program for improving highways, short-line railroads, rural airports and public transit systems.

"I have a good working relationship with representatives of the railroad industry, an outgrowth of our work on the comprehensive transportation plan," Graves said. "We've always had a good relationship with our general aviation manufacturers in Wichita."

Among major transportation firms in Kansas are Boeing Co., Cessna Aircraft Co., Raytheon Aircraft Co., Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, and Yellow Freight Corp.

Graves won a second term in 1998 with 73 percent of the vote, the largest percentage in state history and the largest percentage of any GOP governor running for re-election that year.

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