Honolulu Star-Bulletin Local News
Isle trio touted for
Cabinet posts

Asian-Pacific Americans back
Mink, Waihee, Pang

By Pete Pichaske

WASHINGTON - As President Clinton casts his "wide net" for a diverse Cabinet to run his second-term administration, Asian-Pacific-

American leaders are urging him to toss it all the way to Hawaii.

Among the handful being pushed for top positions by a coalition of Asian-Pacific-American groups are three from Hawaii: Rep. Patsy Mink, Assistant Defense Secretary Frederick Pang and former Gov. John Waihee.

"They have such solid credentials, they would be qualified for more than one post," said Francey Lim Youngberg, executive director of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Institute. "There's never been an Asian American in the Cabinet, and this would be a great time for it to happen."

The coalition has met with top officials in the Presidential Personnel Office. Leaders will meet with Vice President Al Gore, a key voice in the appointment process, and one will take their cause to the top this week when she meets with Clinton.

Already, the coalition has claimed a minor victory, with Clinton's naming of Asian American Nancy Shin to the team that screens candidates for top administration jobs.

A list of six to eight Asian-Pacific Americans has been sent to the White House for such positions as commerce, energy and transportation secretary. Besides Mink, Pang and Waihee, the list includes former U.S. Rep. Norman Mineta of California; University of California at Berkeley Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien; and Ginger Lew, Small Business Administration deputy administrator.

All have expressed an interest in Clinton administration jobs. But of the group, only Mineta has been mentioned as a serious Cabinet candidate.

Mink, however, has been touted in the past by Asian-American groups as a prime candidate for a Supreme Court appointment, which, while not a Cabinet position, is a presidential appointment with enormous power.

And Waihee, a Clinton pal since their days as governors, was considered for either an ambassador's job or an Interior Department position four years ago.

Pang has been a top-level Defense Department official for years, the last two as assistant secretary for force management policy. He graduated from McKinley High School and the University of Hawaii. Associates say Pang is interested in a top job with Veterans Affairs or in the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services or Housing and Urban Development.

Pang, Mink and Waihee were traveling and could not be reached for comment.

Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, has added his voice of support.

"Asian-Pacific Americans are fast becoming a very important political force in this nation," he said. "By appointing an Asian-Pacific American to a Cabinet position in his administration, President Clinton will help to recognize the significant contributions that Asian-Pacific Americans have made to this country."

An official close to the appointment process said it was unlikely that a Cabinet post would go to an Asian-Pacific American this year, but an increase in lower level appointments is possible.

Of the 7,400 political appointments made, including sub-Cabinet positions and boards and commissions, 195 now are filled by Asian-Pacific Americans.

"We're here for the long run," said Jocelyn Hong, raised in Hawaii and co-chairwoman of the National Conference of Korean American Leaders. "We wanted to make sure they knew that there are qualified Asian-Pacific Americans."

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