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Bush fills 4 more Cabinet openings

The nominees are headed by Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, who will lead Health and Human Services.

President-elect George W. Bush filled four of the remaining posts in his Cabinet on Friday, choosing Wisconsin's governor, Tommy Thompson, to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, and Gale Norton, the former attorney general of Colorado and a strong advocate of limiting federal regulation of land use, to become the secretary of the interior.

Bush also said he had selected Rod Paige, who overhauled the Houston schools as superintendent there during Bush's term as Texas governor, to run the Department of Education. And he reached once again for a veteran of his father's administration, Anthony Principi, as secretary of Veterans Affairs. Principi was the deputy secretary from 1989 until 1992, and acting secretary in the last months of President George Bush's administration.

Bush now has only three Cabinet posts left to fill: labor, energy and transportation.

With Friday's selections, Bush has given his Cabinet a significantly conservative cast, and some of the choices are likely to meet heavy opposition as they move through the confirmation process.

Abortion opponents praised in particular the Thompson selection, saying that an anti-abortion view was important for the head of the health and human services agency to hold. Abortion rights groups, on the other hand, promised to oppose Thompson. Friday afternoon, the Sierra Club compared Norton to James Watt, the interior secretary who became a target of environmentalists during the Reagan administration.

Taking a page from President Clinton's 1992 transition, Bush is also planning an "economic summit" next week in Austin, Texas, where he will gather business leaders and members of his economic team to discuss the economy, free trade, tax policy and other issues.

Two of Bush's selections Friday were immediately embraced by conservative groups: Thompson and Norton. Thompson is known for the innovative "Wisconsin Works" program that moved the poor off welfare rolls and into jobs _ it later became one of the templates for Clinton's "welfare to work" program _ but he is also a strong opponent of abortion.

"I know this man very well," Bush said. "I know his record. I know his ability to lead. Tommy has been a creative, conservative, compassionate governor of Wisconsin. Real _ real _ welfare reform began in Wisconsin."

Within hours of Friday's announcement, groups like Planned Parenthood said they would oppose Thompson's nomination.

"I definitely think there should be great concern about whether he would use his post to eliminate or restrict women's access to abortion services," said Gloria Feldt, the president of Planned Parenthood.

Feldt said she was particularly concerned that Thompson might try to reverse a recent decision by the Food and Drug Administration to make RU-486, a drug that terminates pregnancies, available in the United States. Thompson sidestepped questions on the issue at a news conference with Bush.

But the National Right to Life Committee, the nation's largest anti-abortion organization, said in a statement: "It is very important for a pro-life president to have a pro-life secretary of health and human services, and Thompson has been a pro-life governor over a period of 14 years. He has signed numerous pro-life bills into law, including a ban on partial-birth abortions."

Norton comes from the long-brewing conservative land movement in the West, which has protested federal regulations that restrict the use of land without compensating owners for the loss of revenue those restrictions impose.

Norton was asked Friday about Clinton administration decisions that have severely restricted the commercial use of federal lands.

"The West was concerned about those decisions, in large part because there was no consultation with the people whose lives were most affected by land withdrawals by the Clinton administration," she said.

She stopped short of declaring that she would reverse those actions, saying: "I will be discussing those issues with the Senate as part of my confirmation hearings, and at this time I have no position on what the incoming administration will be doing as to those designations."

Similarly, she refused to say whether she would push for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Area, though she noted that Bush took a position during the campaign that "we should explore opening" the area because "there are huge amounts of oil available."

The selection of Paige was intriguing: Bush was clearly looking for someone completely in tune with his own philosophy for overhauling schools, so he reached for a superintendent whose district the president-elect knows well: Houston.

Paige served for several years on the Houston School Board, which selected him as superintendent in 1994 over the objections of the city's Hispanic community, which sought a Hispanic head for a district with a large percentage of students who live in Spanish-speaking homes.

But by most accounts, Paige quickly won the trust of the Hispanic community.

"He raised test scores significantly, while strengthening the tests and improving their validity by including special education kids in the numbers," said Bob Lanier, a Democrat who served as mayor of Houston from 1992 to 1998.

"He's given more authority to the school principals and then held them accountable," Lanier said. "He worked with several successful charter schools. He's been willing to experiment with limited voucher programs," which Democrats have opposed for fear they could undercut public schools by diverting taxpayer dollars to private schools.

Tommy Thompson

Age: 59, born Nov. 19, 1941.

Education: B.A., political science, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1963; J.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1966.

Experience: Lawyer; U.S. Army Reserve, 1966-76; Wisconsin Assembly, 1967-87; assistant minority leader, Wisconsin Assembly, 1981-87; governor, 1987-2000.

Family: Married to Sue Ann Thompson; three children; one grandchild.

Gale Norton

Age: 46, born March 11, 1954.

Education: Bachelor's degree, University of Denver, 1975; law degree, University of Denver, 1978.

Experience: Associate solicitor at Department of the Interior, 1985-90; assistant to the deputy secretary of agriculture, 1984-1985; Mountain States Legal Foundation, 1979-1983; first female attorney general in Colorado, 1990-99.

Family: Husband, John G. Hughes.

Anthony Principi

Age: 56, born April 16, 1944.

Education: B.S., U.S. Naval Academy, 1967; J.D., Seton Hall University, 1975.

Experience: President, QTC Medical Services; acting secretary of veterans affairs, 1992-93; deputy secretary of veterans affairs, 1989-92; Republican chief counsel and staff director of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, 1984-1988; deputy administrator in the Veterans Administration, 1983-1984; U.S. Navy, 1967-80; unit commander in Vietnam; chief defense attorney for the Naval Legal Service Office, 1975-1978.

Family: wife, Elizabeth; three sons, including two in the Air Force.

Roderick Paige

Age: 67, born June 17, 1933.

Education: B.A., Jackson State University; M.A., Ph.D., Indiana University.

Experience: Houston schools superintendent, 1994-2000; Houston school district trustee, 1990-1994; a faculty member at several universities; head football coach at Texas Southern University; dean of the College of Education at Texas Southern University; Houston School Board, 1989-92.

Family: Divorced, one son.