Thomas says he's being considered for Bush administration job

Posted: Tuesday, December 26, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- Native leader Ed Thomas said he's being considered for the top job in Indian Affairs in the Bush administration.

Thomas is president of the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. He said Paul Homan, a former special trustee in the Department of the Interior who is a consultant to the Bush transition, apparently placed his name under consideration for assistant secretary for Indian Affairs.

Thomas believes he is one of about six candidates being considered for the job.

''My own personal feeling is Ed is somebody we could work with,'' said Dorothy Owens, president of Douglas Indian Association. ''His strength is he knows all the tribes, he knows who all the leaders are.''

The assistant secretary heads up the Bureau of Indian Affairs, an agency with a $2.1 billion budget that administers programs for federally-recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribes and individuals. BIA's areas of responsibility include education, law enforcement and trust fund management.

Thomas, 59, president of the nonprofit Central Council since 1984, has been a member of numerous state and federal advisory councils and task forces on Native American issues. Although he describes himself as politically independent, he worked on the campaign of Republican presidential candidate John McCain of Arizona and helped draft the party's platform plank on Native issues at the request of House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

Thomas said he's not sure he would go to Washington, D.C., if the job is offered.

''It depends on the secretary,'' he said. ''I don't have that burning desire to be there at all costs. I'm happy where I am.''

Thomas said rumored front-runner Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a Republican senator from Colorado, would be a good choice for Interior secretary. There also is speculation about Republican Sen. Slade Gorton, who was just defeated in his re-election bid in Washington state.

David Garman, U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski's chief of staff, said Thomas is a strong candidate but it's difficult to predict what will happen until the pick for Interior secretary is made.

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