San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro's (D) confirmation today will make him the latest in an unusually long line of elected officials President Obama has tapped for his Cabinet. We don't know what will happen to Castro, but Obama's maneuverings have already had a huge impact on national and state politics throughout the country.
-- The single biggest one? Not only did Obama's appointment of then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D) as Secretary of State do much to set up the 2016 presidential race, it also indirectly launched Kirsten Gillibrand (D) -- the formerly anti-immigration, gun-toting, Blue-Dog-rep-turned-liberal-Senate-darling -- as a potential Democratic star when she was appointed in Clinton's place by Gov. David Paterson (D).
-- But there are plenty more: George W. Bush only sparingly used current elected officeholders, like then-Orange County mayor Mel Martinez (R), to staff his Cabinet, but Obama's appointments opened up two governorships and two Senate seats within weeks of him taking office. Janet Napolitano's (D) nomination to DHS paved the way for Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's (R) rise, the passage of the SB 1070 immigration law, and this year's open gubernatorial contest. Where would DSCC chair Sen. Michael Bennet (D), the former Denver schools chief, be right now if Ken Salazar (D) hadn't moved to Interior?
-- Now, the question is: How will Castro's move to DC affect Texas politics? Even more than for former Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx (D), now heading the Transportation Department, there wasn't an immediate next step for Castro to take at home, while the national experience (not to mention time for Hispanic political power to grow) could help later, as it did with Martinez -- or he could skip running statewide in Texas entirely.
But nothing is guaranteed, and it's always risky for ambitious politicians to remove themselves from the day-to-day details of electoral politics. In any case, as we've seen with Obama's other Cabinet appointments, Castro's (and Foxx's) moves are sure to have major effects down the road -- some planned, and some unforeseen.
-- Scott Bland