WASHINGTON — Former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, D-Ill., who has known President-elect Joe Biden for decades and was an early backer of his White House bid, said Wednesday she would like be his Interior Secretary.
“I don’t know if Joe wants to do anything with me. As you know, I was there for him in the entire campaign. So in the event there is an opening, this is the one I would really like,” Moseley Braun told the Chicago Sun-Times in a phone interview, referencing the Interior spot.
Moseley Braun made history as the first Black female senator. She jumped in the 1992 Illinois Senate race after Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment at his Supreme Court Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing — a panel chaired at the time by Biden, then a Delaware senator.
Biden, aware he needed female members on his panel in the wake of the Anita Hill uproar, recruited Moseley Braun to be a member of the Judiciary Committee after her election.
When the 2020 Democratic primary field was crowded, Moseley Braun early on supported Biden. The two had stayed connected after she left the Senate. She attended the funeral for his son, Beau.
During the campaign she played a surrogate role as a Biden priority was turning out the vote of Black women, some of the most reliable Democratic voters. As a surrogate, Moseley Braun’s public backing — and bookings in strings of interviews — helped Biden overcome lingering criticisms over his handling of the Anita Hill charges.
After Biden tapped Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., to be his vice president, Moseley Braun was also helpful in talking about the history-making role of Harris. Harris, Black and Asian American, is only the second Black female senator and will be the first woman of color to be vice president. Biden has said he would not have been elected without Black voters.
During the Democratic convention — virtual because of the COVID-19 pandemic — Moseley Braun traveled to Springfield to record a short message for the roll call, where she announced the Illinois votes for Biden.
The Washington Post first broke the news that Moseley Braun was interested in the Interior spot in Biden’s cabinet.
The Sun-Times has learned that Moseley Braun, with her long and loyal ties to Biden, would likely be considered for some position — but a cabinet post may be out of her reach.
Moseley Braun served only one term, defeated by now ex-Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, R-Ill., after her Senate tenure was marred by controversies, including the hiring of her then-fiancé to be her campaign manager.
After her loss, President Bill Clinton tapped her to be the U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa.
Moseley Braun, 73, a Hyde Park resident and the grandmother of toddler twins, reminded me when we talked about her being Interior Secretary that her political career grew out of her interest in saving birds — bobolinks — in Jackson Park.
When Moseley Braun launched what turned out to be an unsuccessful presidential bid, she said in her kickoff speech on Feb. 19, 2003, her interest in running for a political office was sparked because, “I got involved in a neighborhood environmental issue. We were fighting City Hall in an effort to save the bobolinks in Jackson Park.”
She added, “The birds lost out to the golf driving range. But my co-protesters encouraged me to stand for the Illinois House of Representatives, and that was the beginning of my political career.”
Moseley Braun tried for a comeback in an ill-fated bid in the 2011 Chicago mayoral race.
A campaign of sorts has sprung up promoting Rep. Deb Haaland, D-New Mexico, for the Interior position. Haaland would be, if she got it, the first Native American in that spot. Another name often mentioned is Sen. Tom Udall, D-New Mexico.
Moseley Braun has been, as she said, with Biden “every step of the way.”
If Biden called offering something other than Interior, Moseley Braun said, “I’m likely to go for it, depending on what it is.”