Texas rancher Susan Combs, the first woman elected as state agriculture commissioner and a former state comptroller, was to meet Vice President-elect Mike Pence, said the Trump transition team. The move ignited speculation that Combs might be in line for USDA chief.
Meanwhile, transition spokesman Jason Miller said Jovita Carranza, a member of Trump’s Hispanic Advisory Council, “is being worked out for” U.S. trade representative.
“There are some other names that you mentioned that could possibly be in the mix, but with specific regard to Ms. Carranza, I can say that that’s a position that she’s being considered for,” Miller said during a tele-conference with reporters. Carranza, who was deputy administrator of the Small Business Administration during the Bush era, was to meet President-elect Trump in Florida.
Combs was to meet Pence in Washington, said Miller, who listed her in a series of meetings planned for the afternoon. After serving in the legislature, Combs was elected agriculture commissioner from 1998-2006, and then as state comptroller from 2006-14.
Pence’s meeting with Combs could indicate that Trump has not settled on a nominee for Agriculture secretary, said The Hagstrom Report. ABC News said, “Transition officials did not immediately confirm if Combs is up for that post.”
“Another wild-card pick might be on the way,” said Mother Jones, pointing to Trump’s selection of a fast-food baron to run the Labor Department. The magazine also said Sid Miller, the incumbent Texas agriculture commissioner, is trying to ingratiate himself with Trump, and Charles Herbster, an early agricultural backer, reportedly met Trump transition officials last week. Idaho Gov. Butch Otter was in the running for agriculture secretary last week, according to a spokesman.
Combs was a leader in the Texas campaign of Carly Fiorina for the Republican presidential nomination, but she switched to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio after Fiorina dropped out. She announced that fall that she intended to vote for Trump, said the Texas Tribune. Trump “has an unfortunate habit … of not being particularly polite in public about women,” she said, according to the Tribune, “but I’m also focused a lot of time on the economic issues.”
Traditionally, presidents-elect wrap up cabinet nominations by Christmas. The only posts left for Trump to fill are the secretaries of Agriculture and of Veterans Affairs. Over the last 40 years, the average date for nominating an agriculture secretary was Dec. 17.
Nominees for agriculture secretary tend to come from the Midwest, the agricultural heartland of the nation, or California, the No. 1 farm state in value of production. Governors and members of Congress have been the most popular source of nominees in recent decades. The last farmer to head USDA was Jack Block during the Reagan era. When nominated, Block also was Illinois agriculture director.