AUSTIN, Texas (BP)–President-elect George W. Bush named Missouri Sen. John Ashcroft as his nominee for attorney general and New Jersey Republican Gov. Christie Todd Whitman as his Environmental Protection Agency administrator nominee.
Ashcroft, an evangelical Christian, is a member of the Assemblies of God denomination.
Bush made the announcement at a news conference Friday morning in Austin.
Ashcroft is a former state attorney general and governor who was narrowly defeated in a 2000 re-election bid. He is pro-life and a favorite of cultural conservatives; Ashcroft briefly flirted with a 2000 presidential run of his own but stepped back before formally announcing a candidacy.
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said the Ashcroft selection was good news for social conservatives.
“I could not be more pleased with the nomination of John Ashcroft,” Land told Baptist Press. “John Ashcroft is a man of deep evangelical faith convictions, who has an enviable reputation of sterling integrity.”
“I can think of no one who would more instantaneously restore credibility to the tainted and disgraced [Janet] Reno Justice Dept. than Sen. Ashcroft,” Land added.
Whitman is a somewhat polarizing figure in her party. She is a favorite of economic conservatives because of her zeal for cutting taxes, but is often criticized by social conservatives because of her support for abortion rights.
Whitman’s views on abortion kept her from being considered as a potential Bush running mate, and took her out of contention for the HHS position.
In addition, Bush is expected to back Virginia Gov. James Gilmore as the new chairman of the Republican National Committee. Gilmore has another year left on his term as the Old Dominion’s governor, but has told the president-elect he would be eager to serve as party chairman. He would replace Colorado’s Jim Nicholson as the RNC leader.
Bush and his Agriculture secretary-nominee, Ann Veneman, planned to meet with farming industry leaders Friday afternoon, then Bush and his wife Laura will leave the state capital to spend the holiday weekend at the family ranch in Crawford, Texas.
Former Sen. Dan Coats, R-Indiana, is still thought to be the front-runner for the Defense Department. Coats, a former member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, pushed for a stronger military during his Senate tenure.
No Bush Cabinet appointments were announced Thursday. Rather, the day was set aside to allow him to say goodbye to his coworkers at the Texas statehouse. Bush resigned as the governor of Texas on Thursday morning, bringing an end to his service in the Lone Star State as he prepares for his new position as president of the United States.
Land had high praise for the ethnic diversity of Bush’s nominees including Gen. Colin Powell, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, Alberto Gonzalez, and Mel Martinez.
“The greatest news is that all of these people are there because of their incredible accomplishments and abilities, and they are all a credit to their race — the human race,” Land said.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at www.bpnews.net. Photo title: ASHCROFT.