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Linda Chavez: 1947—: Civil Rights Advocate, Columnist, Commentator

Cabinet Nomination Derailed

Through the late 1990s and into the new millennium, Chavez's stature as a conservative spokesperson grew significantly. When President-elect George W. Bush nominated her to be his labor secretary on January 2, 2001, conservatives were delighted. Just as predictably, liberal and labor forces were quick to voice their vigorous opposition to her nomination. It was clear from the outset that her nomination would be a tough sell on Capitol Hill. In the end, however, Chavez was undone by the revelation that she had once knowingly harbored Marta Mercado, an illegal immigrant from Guatemala, within her household in the early 1990s. She was also charged with paying Mercado less than the minimum wage to do household chores, an allegation Chavez denied. The ensuing furor proved too much to withstand. On January 9, 2001, she withdrew her name from consideration. At a news conference posted on the About Conservatives: U.S. website, Chavez stated, "I have decided that I am becoming a distraction and therefore, I have asked President Bush to withdraw my name as secretary of labor." She added, "I do this with some regret because I think that it is a very, very bad signal to all of those good people out there who want to serve their government and want to serve the people of the United States."

Liberals who thought the nomination debacle would in any way muzzle Chavez were soon disabused of such notions. In her memoir, An Unlikely Conservative: The Transformation of an Ex-Liberal, published in October of 2002, Chavez once again spoke out forcefully against the liberal public policies she had spent the previous two decades battling. Although she conceded that she had been wrong not to have disclosed the Mercado experience to the Bush transition team, Chavez argued that her alleged offense was not something that should have disqualified her from serving as labor secretary. In his review of the book for American Enterprise, Eric Cox noted the absence of any defense from Chavez. "Instead, she blames a hostile press and political foes who would have used any excuse to sabotage her confirmation. She is undoubtedly right on both counts. But her refusal to refute the merits of the case against her suggests that she believes there are none, which is either a slight aimed at her conservative critics or a remarkable display of political naivete."

Selected writing

Out of the Barrio: Toward a New Politics of Hispanic Assimilation, Basic Books, 1991.

An Unlikely Conservative: The Transformation of an Ex-Liberal, Basic Books, 2002.



Complete Marquis Who's Who, Marquis Who's Who, 2003.

Dictionary of Hispanic Biography, Gale Research, 1996.

Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed., 17 vols., Gale Research, 1998.

Newsmakers 1999, Issue 3, Gale Group, 1999.


American Enterprise, January-February 2003.

Commentary, March 1998; November 2002.

Insight on the News, July 21, 1997; February 12, 2001.

National Review, February 5, 2001.

PR Newswire, February 21, 1995.


"Chavez Withdraws as Labor Sec.-Designate," About Conservative Politics: US, http://usconservatives .about.com/bln0109chavez.htm (July 15, 2003).

"Linda Chavez," Barber & Associates, www.barber usa.com/diversity/chavez_linda_bio.html. (July 15, 2003).

"Linda Chavez," Biography Resource Center, www. gale net.com/servlet/BioRC (July 15, 2003).

"Linda Chavez," Dads Against the Divorce Industry, www.dadi.org/lc_eng1.htm (July 15, 2003).

"Linda Chavez," Eagles Talent Connection, Inc., www.eaglestalent.com/talent/chavez.html (July 15, 2003).

"Linda Chavez," Harry Walker Agency, http://www.harrywalker.com/speakers_template_printer.cfm?Spea_ID=74&SubcatID=152 (July 15, 2003).

"Linda Chavez; A Favorite of Conservatives," ABCNEWS.com, http://abcnews.go.com/sections/poli tics/DailyNews/chavez_profile010201.html (July 15, 2003).

"Linda Chavez - An Unlikely Conservative: The Transformation of an Ex-Liberal," SUPA: Stop Union Political Abuse vez/interview.htm (July 15, 2003).

"Linda Chavez Biography," Republican Issues Campaign, http://republicanissues.com/biography.asp (July 15, 2003).

—Don Amerman

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Katie Burke (1953–) Biography - Personal to Galeazzo Ciano (1903–1944) BiographyLinda Chavez: 1947—: Civil Rights Advocate, Columnist, Commentator Biography - Difficult Childhood Lead To Early Action, Deemed "not Minority Enough", Experienced Political Transformation, Advanced Conservative Causes