Janet Napolitano speaks to the press in her office at the Arizona state capitol. President-elect Obama has chosen the Arizona governor to head the Homeland Security Department. (Ross D. Franklin / AP)
Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) has been chosen to serve as secretary of the vast and troubled Department of Homeland Security for President-elect Obama, Democratic officials said. Napolitano is a border governor who will now be responsible for immigration policy and border security, which are part of Homeland Security's myriad functions.
Napolitano brings law-and-order experience from her stint as the Grand Canyon State's first female attorney general. One of the nation's most prominent female elected officials, she made frequent appearances on behalf of Barack Obama during the campaign. She was re-elected to a second four-year term in 2006.
Transition insiders have long expected that she would be offered a Cabinet slot, although she had also been mentioned for other posts, including attorney general.
Napolitano, 50, endorsed Obama in early January, just as the primaries were kicking off, and the female up-and-comer's decision to back the Illinois Senator got widespread coverage.
In 2005, TIME magazine named her one of America's five best governors, calling her "A Mountaineer on the Political Rise."
TIME reported: "The one issue Republicans think they can use against the popular Napolitano is illegal immigration, because the huge number of border crossings have left many Arizonans feeling overwhelmed and powerless. Her critics claim she came to the problem late, but she seems to have navigated it deftly. … Napolitano opposed … several bills that targeted illegal immigrants. Instead, she looked to the systems and people that make illegal immigration possible: she ordered state contractors to ensure that their employees are legal [and] set up an undercover unit to catch forgers of identity documents … In mid-August she declared a state of emergency in Arizona to direct more funds to protecting border areas from illegal crossings."
The Democratic officials said Napolitano has not been officially offered the job but is likely to be named and to accept. The selection was first reported by CNN.
Her official bio says: "Janet Napolitano was sworn in as Arizona's 21st Governor on January 6, 2003. She is the first woman in the nation's history to serve as U.S. Attorney, State Attorney General and Governor in immediate succession. Prior her election as Governor of Arizona, Napolitano served one term as Arizona Attorney General and four years as U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona. Born in New York City and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, she is a distinguished alumna of Santa Clara University and the University of Virginia Law School. She has lived in Arizona since 1983, when she moved to Phoenix to practice law."