WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton on Tuesday named former U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar of Colorado as the chairman of her White House transition team — a job that puts him in prime position to join Clinton’s administration if she wins the election.
As head of a lineup that includes former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and former National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, Salazar will be in charge of vetting potential agency leaders and officials, as well as consulting with President Barack Obama’s administration on issues ranging from the economy to national security.
“Once Hillary Clinton makes history by being elected as the nation’s first woman president, we want to have a turnkey operation in place so she can hit the ground running right away,” Salazar, a Democrat, said in a statement released Tuesday by the Clinton campaign.
While transition teams are nothing new, their role has become increasingly official in recent years. Salazar’s team will meet regularly with the administration and use work space provided by the General Services Administration. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was tapped in May by Donald Trump for a similar assignment.
Clinton’s selection of Salazar is not a complete surprise, said Colorado Democrats who know both politicians. Salazar has been a longtime Clinton supporter — hosting a campaign event for her last fall — and he was mentioned as a possible running mate in the early months of the 2016 presidential campaign.
Clinton and Salazar have a history, too. Not only did they serve together in the U.S. Senate, the two politicians both were Cabinet officials under Obama: She with the State Department and he with the U.S. Department of the Interior.
“My perception is that Secretary Clinton and Secretary Salazar built a strong relationship when they both were serving in the Cabinet,” said Steve Bachar, a member of Clinton’s National Finance Committee. “They gained a lot of mutual respect and when Secretary Clinton announced her candidacy for president, Ken stepped in to be as helpful as he could in every way he could.”
Although Clinton ultimately selected U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia as her pick for vice president — over Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper — the transition team could provide Salazar a road back to Washington if he wants it.