As soon as the race for the White House ended Tuesday – concluding with Donald Trump’s stunning victory – another one kicked into high gear: the race for jobs in the next president’s administration. Throughout his campaign, Trump relied on a relatively small but loyal group of allies in Texas, and now some appear poised to reap the benefits with a one-way ticket to Washington, D.C.
In the 48 hours since Trump’s win, a rough list has formed of Texans being mentioned most often as potential recruits for a Trump administration. The list includes former Gov. Rick Perry, U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul of Austin, Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller and U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Dallas. Countless other names are coming up.
“I think there’s a lot of opportunities for our current elected officials,” said Matt Langston, a Republican consultant based in Austin, as Trump’s win became clear late Tuesday night. “I don’t know if any of them want to be in D.C., but I think the Donald Trump transition team will take a really hard look at really all our statewide elected officials and even some former statewide elected officials.”
One lesser-publicized name has been Kathleen Hartnett White, a Trump energy adviser who formerly chaired the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. White, who now works for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, told the Texas Tribune on Thursday that she has been contacted by Trump’s transition team as it looks to staff his administration.
“I think a lot of things are way too premature to try to characterize meaningfully, but it would be my lifelong work – it would be an honor to serve in his administration,” said White, director of the Armstrong Center for Energy & the Environment at TPPF, a conservative think tank based in Austin.
White clearly has fans in Trump’s circle. On Thursday, Trump economic adviser Stephen Moore called her “one of the great environmental and natural resource experts in our country.” He added that he would “love to see her in a high-level position,” maybe running the Environmental Protection Agency or Interior Department.
Another TPPF person who could wind up in Trump’s administration is its president and CEO, Brooke Rollins. She was a member of Trump’s Economic Advisory Council.
Among elected officials, Trump will have to look beyond the top two in the state, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott. Patrick has told Trump’s transition team he has “zero interest” in going to Washington but that he is happy to continue providing input on other Texans who could. Abbott said Wednesday his “focus is singularly on” serving as governor and running for re-election in 2018.
“My hope is just that the Texas values that we’ve been fighting for are going to be upheld, and everything that I’ve seen thus far looks like [they] will be,” Abbott said in a phone interview.
Abbott’s predecessor, however, is in the mix. Perry has expressed openness to working under Trump, possibly on veteran’s issues, and the president-elect has said he wants to get Perry “involved in some capacity at a high level.” A person close to Perry said Thursday the former governor would be “honored to serve his country if called upon.”
The morning after Trump won, Perry appeared to tease the prospect of joining the administration, posting a photo on Instagram of him next to a pay phone with the caption, “Just got a call to #makeamericagreatagain.” A spokesman did not respond to a request for clarification on the photo.
As for Texas’ pro-Trump congressmen, McCaul is eager to serve in the administration, but there was no official offer as of Thursday evening, according to a Republican source familiar with the process. One of the jobs he is interested in is Homeland Security secretary, GOP sources said of McCaul, who chairs the House Committee on Homeland Security.
Meanwhile, another House Republican from Texas – Hensarling of Dallas – is being looked at for Treasury secretary, according to multiple reports Wednesday and Thursday. Hensarling is a close friend of Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who served with Hensarling in Congress years ago.
Among current statewide officials, the name coming up most often is Miller, who caught the attention of Trump in the home stretch of the election with his defiant declarations that the polls were wrong. Miller served on Trump’s Agriculture Advisory Council.
“I’m really flattered I would even be considered,” Miller said in a phone interview Thursday, referring to a Politico report that he is on the Trump transition team’s short list for agriculture secretary. Miller added that he has not had any correspondence with the Trump transition team yet, but he “wouldn’t expect to get any until they go through the vetting process.”
Asked about other Texans who could serve under Trump, Miller pointed to McCaul, Perry and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, whom Miller said would be a “good fit” for the U.S. Supreme Court. Cruz has said he is not interested in serving on the high court, a position that is not believed to have changed since Tuesday.
Asked Thursday if he would take a job in Trump’s cabinet, Cruz did not say either way, according to video from a Houston reporter. He did say, however, that he has offered “full and unequivocal support” to Trump, who defeated Cruz after a long fight in the primaries on his way to becoming the 45th president.
Read related Tribune coverage:
- Its brand-new headquarters is almost done, and its influence on public policy in Texas — and nationally — cannot be denied. At age 25, the Texas Public Policy Foundation is the big kid on the block among Austin think tanks.
- Throughout his campaign, Trump cultivated a number of loyal allies in Texas, making for no shortage of options as his transition team looks to staff the incoming administration.
Disclosure: The Texas Public Policy Foundation has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.