- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - Former Washington Gov. Gary Locke pledged to closely oversee the 2010 Census and work to save and create thousands of jobs if confirmed as the nation’s new commerce secretary.

Locke’s confirmation hearing Wednesday represents President Barack Obama’s third try at filling the Commerce post, after his first two nominees withdrew.

Locke told the Senate Commerce Committee the nation must “rebuild, retool and reinvent” its strategies for job creation amid the economic crisis.

Obama turned to Locke, a former two-term Democratic governor, for the job after New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson withdrew amid questions about the awarding of state contracts and Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire changed his mind about working for a Democratic president.

If confirmed by the Senate, Locke would assume control of an agency with a broad portfolio that includes overseeing many aspects of international trade, oceans policy and the 2010 census.

Locke pledged to oversee a full and accurate count of the American people. He said the Census Bureau will be run by the Commerce Department _ answering an issue raised by Republicans. Some GOP lawmakers were critical of Obama administration comments indicating that the White House might take greater control over the Census Bureau.

Locke said he wanted to make it clear he will oversee the Census, working with a census director who will work with Congress, the administration and state leaders “to make sure you and they are involved every step of the way in making this a successful count.”

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., chairman of the Commerce panel, said Locke will face many challenges, including overseeing the transition to digital television, expanding rural broadband Internet service and directing ocean policy.

“I think you understand Main Street,” Rockefeller told Locke.

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