Donald Trump, American’s unconventional president-elect, will likely fill his Cabinet with a Texan or two, recognizing the state that gave him his biggest swath of support Tuesday night.
Trump could go the traditional route and nominate Republican former Gov. Rick Perry for a top position in the administration, either as secretary of agriculture or secretary of commerce.
“I think Perry is an absolutely logical appointee,” said Jim Riddlesperger, a Texas Christian University professor and Texas politics expert. “He’s the longest-serving governor in Texas history and has a lot of experience in agriculture policy.”
Trump could go rogue and appoint Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, a little-known figure in national political circles who called Hillary Clinton the c-word on Twitter last week.
“Sid Miller is a different kettle of fish,” Riddlesperger said. “He has less experience in state politics than Perry does and very little in national politics. Because of his extraordinary conservative political views and tweets, Sid Miller would have to jump a couple of hurdles to get on a short list. It’s probably unlikely, but that’s just my speculation.”
Miller said in an interview that he had not been officially contacted by the Trump transition team, but he is “uniquely qualified” to become secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“I have real-world experience,” Miller said. “I’m an eighth-generation farmer and rancher and I’m very familiar with the USDA programs. In the first 12 months of my administration we’ve been on six continents, except Antarctica, promoting Texas agriculture.”
But the list doesn’t stop with Miller and Perry, who were both agriculture advisers with the Trump campaign.
There’s the deep bench of powerful Texans in the House of Representatives, where the vast majority of the state’s 25 Republicans enthusiastically supported Trump during the campaign and honed their policy chops under a Democratic-controlled White House.
Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Dallas, the chair of the House Financial Services Committee, is reportedly under consideration for treasury secretary under Trump. Hensarling has served in Congress since 2003 and led opposition to the 2010 Dodd-Frank law, which brought significant regulations to the financial sector.
Hensarling told The Wall Street Journal he would “certainly have the discussion” if Trump’s team called him, but he said, “It is not something I am pursuing. . . . I think I’m in a pretty good position now to advance the cause.”
Trump campaign spokeswoman Katrina Pierson, who rose to prominence in North Texas tea party circles, could also play a role in the president-elect’s White House.
Sen. John Cornyn could be in the mix for attorney general, Riddlesperger said. The position already has seen a number of high-profile Trump supporters, like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, actively lobby for the post.
“Cornyn has experience and stature in Washington,” Riddlesperger said.
But certain kinds of inside-the-Beltway experience could be a nonstarter for Trump’s team as they seek to drain Washington’s “swamp.”
Miller certainly is not part of the swamp. He’s spent his entire political career in Texas, and he made news with his off-color social media postings, including the calling Clinton the c-word and suggesting the Middle East should be nuked.
“I did not post that,” Miller said of the Clinton tweet. “I’ve explained that dozens and dozens of times. Within 15 minutes we took that down and I apologized. I think it’s hypocritical the media jumped all over that for two weeks, when Democrats did it first. They printed up and sold T-shirts that said Sarah Palin is the c-word in 2008. The protesters went to Republican rallies. For Democrats to do that, go after me for one little mistake, is very hypocritical.”
A woman who created the shirts described herself as a Libertarian and Barack Obama supporter, not a Democrat, when contacted in 2008.
Miller would be the first Texan to serve as secretary of agriculture. He said he’d met with Mexican officials for trade discussions and would have the support of Texas’ large congressional delegation.
“I agree with Donald Trump on a lot of things,” Miller said. “Of course, trade is big for agriculture. I want to open up foreign markets to ag commodities. There’s not one commodity turning a profit right now. We need to sell China beef, sorghum, soy.”
Miller doesn’t want to eliminate the North American Free Trade Agreement, but he wants to see major changes.
“NAFTA needs to be reworked,” Miller said. “We don’t need to just throw it away, we need to take that document and improve on it. We need to win again.”
He also wants to open up trade with Cuba, a recently unthinkable policy position for many Republicans. President Obama promised to lift the Cuban trade embargo earlier this year.
“We need to open up to Cuba,” Miller said. “It’s 90 miles off our coast and they’re buying up their commodities from Europe. I have been very aggressive on trade.”
“He has a lot of experience in ag policy,” Riddlesperger said. “Perry is famous as governor for running Texas Enterprise Fund, which made him a little unpopular in some of the other states for luring jobs to his state. It gives him the gravitas you might want in a commerce secretary.”
Riddlesperger said Perry would likely withstand the Senate’s confirmation process because he’d had his life scrutinized while serving as governor and running for president.
Trump will need to inspire confidence in a deeply divided electorate with his Cabinet picks, along with someone who is up for the job, even if they don’t conform to Trump’s “outsider” mantra.
“Regardless of what your rhetoric is, being in the Cabinet is a Washington job,” Riddlesperger said.