President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. moved quickly last week to name the first two members of his cabinet, picking one of his closest confidants to be the nation’s top diplomat and choosing an immigrant to lead the Department of Homeland Security, a first.
But as he fills out the rest of his team, the task will become more complicated. Whom Mr. Biden will tap to be the next attorney general is among the most talked about — and politically fraught — decisions that he will make as civil rights issues roil the country and some Democrats expect investigations into President Trump and his associates.
Sally Q. Yates, the deputy attorney general in the final years of the Obama administration, had long been considered the front-runner.
Mr. Biden could instead pick Lisa Monaco, the former homeland security adviser for President Barack Obama.
But both women are up against Deval Patrick, the former Massachusetts governor who served as the head of the department’s civil rights division in the Clinton administration. Xavier Becerra, the attorney general of California, is also under consideration for the job.
To lead the Pentagon, candidates include Michèle A. Flournoy, a senior defense official for President Bill Clinton and Mr. Obama; Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, a former deputy energy secretary and National Security Council member; and Lloyd J. Austin III, a retired Army general and head of the U.S. Central Command, people close to the process said. The Biden team could also tap Jeh C. Johnson, who served as a top Pentagon lawyer before becoming secretary of homeland security under Mr. Obama.
Over at the C.I.A., Michael J. Morell, a former acting C.I.A. director, could be nominated to that position, or it could go to Thomas E. Donilon, a former national security adviser in the Obama administration. Others under consideration are Sue Gordon, a former principal deputy director of national intelligence who was pushed out by Mr. Trump; Vincent R. Stewart, a retired lieutenant general who led the Defense Intelligence Agency; and Representative Elissa Slotkin, Democrat of Michigan, a former C.I.A. analyst and White House national security aide.
Mr. Biden could pick Roger W. Ferguson Jr., an economist who was vice chair of the Federal Reserve, to lead the National Economic Council or a new board overseeing the recovery from the recession.
Other names under consideration for the position include Bruce Reed, a former chief of staff to Mr. Biden, and Austan Goolsbee, an economist who was chairman of Mr. Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers. Gene Sperling, a veteran economic adviser dating to the Clinton administration, is another possibility, as is Brian Deese, who was deputy director of the National Economic Council under Mr. Obama
To coordinate the response to the pandemic, Jeffrey D. Zients, who was director of the National Economic Council under Mr. Obama, could become Mr. Biden’s “Covid czar.” That job could also go to Vivek H. Murthy, the former surgeon general who helps lead Mr. Biden’s transition panel on the virus.
Other names seen as top contenders for cabinet posts include:
Mary D. Nichols, California’s climate and clean air regulator, could lead the Environmental Protection Agency.
Contenders to lead the Agriculture Department include Representative Marcia L. Fudge, an African-American Democrat from Ohio; Heidi Heitkamp, a former senator from North Dakota, and Tom Vilsack, the former Iowa governor who served as agriculture secretary for Mr. Obama.
Ernest J. Moniz, Mr. Obama’s energy secretary, could reprise his role, or the job could go to Arun Majumdar, who runs the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford.
Top contenders to run the Transportation Department include Rahm Emanuel, Mr. Obama’s former chief of staff and a former mayor of Chicago, and Eric M. Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles.
Names being discussed to take over the Department of Housing and Urban Development include Representative Karen Bass, Democrat of California; Alvin Brown, a former mayor of Jacksonville, Fla.; and Keisha Lance Bottoms, the mayor of Atlanta.
PHOENIX — In the moonlight, dozens of people hollered and embraced, dropping the rules of social distancing as they celebrated a win after a long year: hundreds of thousands of Latino voters registered, calls made and doors knocked amid a pandemic that had devastated their communities. Though it would be days before the final result in Arizona was clear, the people working to shore up Latino support for Democrats in the state were already convinced that they helped shape history. They had come through the crucible of a pervasive anti-immigrant sentiment and a decade later, flipped the state and delivered wins.
“Tonight we claim victory because we showed up,” said Stephanie Maldonado, the political director for Lucha, a civil rights group that helped coordinate efforts for Democrats.
Four days later, when the state was still uncalled but Joseph R. Biden Jr. had been declared the winner nationally, protesters who supported the president showed up at the state capitol. They waved Trump flags, some depicting the president as a Rambo-like figure, and many carried rifles and military-style guns of their own. The several hundred people gathered in the blazing sun were convinced, without evidence, that the election had been stolen from President Trump, and they were there to express their distrust — in the news media, in the electoral process, in almost any political figure other than Mr. Trump.
The two scenes — young Latinos celebrating victory, angry protesters refusing to concede defeat — are emblematic of the deep divide in Arizona. Though Mr. Biden won the state, making him only the second Democrat presidential candidate to do so since 1948, he did so with the thinnest of margins, receiving roughly 11,000 votes or 0.3 percentage points more than Mr. Trump.
And while there are examples of significant change, with the state sending two Democrats to the Senate for the first time in decades, it is far too early to declare the state blue. Instead, officials from both parties agree, the election was clearly a referendum on Mr. Trump, the most divisive president in recent history.
“It’s certainly not blue, and I’m not even sure it’s purple, it’s magenta, or the lightest shade of red,” said Mike Noble, the chief pollster at OH Predictive Insights, a nonpartisan research group based in Phoenix. “If there was such a Democratic surge, we would have seen in down ballot, but you didn’t see that impact.”
WEXFORD, Pa. — Just a few seats shy of a majority in the State House of Representatives, Democrats in Pennsylvania this year zeroed in on Republican-held suburban districts, where disdain for President Trump ran hot.
One of their prime targets was in the North Hills suburbs outside Pittsburgh, which are home to big brick houses, excellent public schools and “the fastest-trending Democratic district in the state,” according to Emily Skopov, the Democratic nominee for an open seat there, who gamely knocked on the doors of Republican voters in the days before Nov. 3.
She was half right. Joseph R. Biden Jr. carried Pennsylvania’s House District 28, after Mr. Trump had won it by nine percentage points in 2016.
But Ms. Skopov, the founder of a nonprofit group who positioned herself as a moderate, was defeated.
Across the country, suburban voters’ disgust with Mr. Trump — the key to Mr. Biden’s election — did not translate into a wide rebuke of other Republicans, as Democrats had expected after the party made significant gains in suburban areas in the 2018 midterm elections. From the top of the party down to the state level, Democratic officials are awakening to the reality that voters may have delivered a one-time verdict on Mr. Trump that does not equal continuing support for center-left policies.
“There’s a significant difference between a referendum on a clown show, which is what we had at the top of the ticket, and embracing the values of the Democratic ticket,” said Nichole Remmert, Ms. Skopov’s campaign manager. “People bought into Joe Biden to stop the insanity in the White House. They did not suddenly become Democrats.”
That dawning truth is evident in the narrower majority that House Democrats will hold in Congress next year, and especially in the blood bath that the party suffered in legislative races in key states around the country, despite directing hundreds of millions of dollars and deploying top party figures like former President Barack Obama to obscure down-ballot elections.
This year, Democrats targeted a dozen state legislative chambers where Republicans held tenuous majorities, including in Pennsylvania, Texas, Arizona, North Carolina and Minnesota. Their goal was to check the power of Republicans to redraw congressional and legislative districts in 2021, and to curb the rightward drift of policies from abortion to gun safety to voting rights.
But in all cases, Democrats came up short. None of their targeted legislative chambers flipped, even though Mr. Biden carried many of the districts that down-ballot Democrats did not. It could make it harder for Democrats to retain a House majority in 2022.
DOUGLAS, Ariz. — Four years ago, President Trump took office with a pledge to build a towering wall on America’s border with Mexico — a symbol of his determination to halt immigration from countries to the south and build a barrier that would long outlast him.
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has said he hopes to halt construction of the border wall, but the departing administration is rushing to complete as much wall as possible in its last weeks in power, dynamiting through some of the border’s most forbidding terrain.
The breakneck pace at which construction is continuing all but assures that the wall, whatever Mr. Biden decides to do, is here to stay for the foreseeable future, establishing a contentious legacy for Mr. Trump in places that were crucial to his defeat.
In southeastern Arizona, the continuing political divisiveness around the president’s signature construction project has pitted rancher against rancher and neighbor against neighbor in a state that a Democratic presidential candidate narrowly carried for the first time in decades.
The region is emerging as one of the Trump administration’s last centers of wall building as blasting crews feverishly tear through the remote Peloncillo Mountains, where ocelots and bighorn sheep roam through woodlands of cottonwoods and sycamores.
Even those who loathe the wall are bracing for the possibility that it could endure for decades to come, basing their assessments on signals from Mr. Biden’s transition team.
While the president-elect has said he will halt new wall construction, other immigration priorities like ending travel bans, accepting more refugees and easing asylum restrictions are eclipsing calls to tear down portions of the wall that already exist.
Advisers involved with the transition team, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss planning for the incoming administration, rejected the notion that there would be any attempt to dismantle the existing border wall, with one adviser calling the wall a “distraction.”
Customs and Border Protection officials are still rushing to meet Mr. Trump’s mandate of 450 miles of new wall construction during his term, nearly doubling the rate of construction since the start of the year. The administration had built 402 miles of wall as of Nov. 13.
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