Janet Napolitano, the Democratic governor of Arizona, is reportedly President-elect Barack Obama's choice to lead the department of Homeland Security, Democratic sources said yesterday. Napolitano, an early supporter of Obama, is serving her second term as governor and was widely considered to be a potential challenger to Sen. John McCain for his Senate seat in 2010. Neither the governor's office nor Obama's would confirm Napolitano's selection, but sources close to the process told CNN the pick was made pending vetting. The Department of Homeland Security was created after the attacks of September 11 to streamline the nation's response to terrorist threats and natural disasters.
U.S. News spoke with Napolitano last month about immigration reform and the fiscal crisis sweeping the states. If she is confirmed, Napolitano will be replaced as governor by Jan Brewer, Arizona's secretary of state, a Republican.
Napolitano has a long record in law enforcement, serving as the U.S. attorney for Arizona during the Clinton administration before becoming the state's attorney general in 1998. She was the first woman to hold either position in the state. In 2002, Napolitano was elected governor, the first Democrat to take office in the perennially red state in 12 years. After closing a $1 billion budget deficit, she was re-elected four years later in a landslide.
During her time as governor, Napolitano became a national figure in the battle over immigration reform. In 2005, she declared a state of emergency along the Arizona-Mexico border, and a few months later, she became the first governor to call up National Guard troops to help the state secure the border. Napolitano, who has expressed frustration with Congress for failing to pass national immigration legislation, signed a bill in 2007 that strips companies that knowingly hire illegal immigrants of their licenses. The law went into effect this year.