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Politics

Texans Susan Combs, Sid Miller at Center of Trump Ag Secretary Speculation

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Bob Daemmrich / Laura Skelding
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Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, left, and former Texas Comptroller Susan Combs.

From the Texas Tribune: The race to be President-elect Donald Trump's agriculture secretary is heating up, and two Texans appear to be at the center of it.

Signs are emerging that Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller and former Comptroller Susan Combs are in play for the job, one of the few Cabinet posts Trump has yet to fill. Combs, who was the state's agriculture commissioner from 1998 to 2007, met with Vice President-elect Mike Pence on Tuesday in Washington, and Miller is preparing for a trip to Trump Tower in the coming days.

“Commissioner Miller has had multiple conversations, telephone conversations, with Chairman Priebus and is planning a trip to the Trump Tower to visit with Chairman Priebus and members of the transition team between Christmas and New Year’s," Miller spokesman Todd Smith said Wednesday, referring to Reince Priebus, the outgoing chairman of the Republican National Committee whom Trump has appointed as his chief of staff. 

Word of Miller's trip came hours after Combs earned a valuable endorsement for the job — that of U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway, the Midland Republican who chairs the House Agriculture Committee. 

"She’s certainly capable and well-qualified for the job," Conaway told the Texas Tribune Wednesday. The position is one "that we on the Ag committee work the closest with, and she’s someone I’m comfortable I could work with her in her role as secretary and in her role as chairman."

Trump's transition team indicated Wednesday he has not yet made a decision on agriculture secretary or another Cabinet post, Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

"I don't know how imminent any announcement will be," Trump aide Jason Miller told reporters, adding that he has not received any indication Trump has officially made up his mind on those positions.

Conaway said he has not spoken with Trump or Pence about Combs, emphasizing that decision is ultimately up to the president-elect.

"All these Cabinet folks will be direct reports to the president, for the most part, and it’s important that it’s people he’s comfortable with," Conaway said. "It doesn’t matter if I’m comfortable or Mike Pence is comfortable — it’s got to be the president."

In Combs and Miller, Trump would have two candidates who differed in the extent of their support during the campaign. Combs, who backed two of Trump's primary rivals, was not an enthusiastic supporter during the general election, though she said she would vote for him and participated in at least one of his Texas fundraisers. Miller, meanwhile, served on Trump's agriculture advisory committee — Combs did not — and emerged as one of his most loyal Texas surrogates in the closing days of the race.

Miller would no doubt be a more controversial pick. He became engulfed in controversy days before the election, when a tweet appeared on his Twitter account calling Trump's Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, an obscene term. Miller apologized and blamed the tweet on a staffer.

Abby Livingston contributed to this report.

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