Report: New Mexico governor, former surgeon general are the top contenders to be Biden's health secretary

Catherine Garcia

President-elect Joe Biden is trying to decide who should lead the Department of Health and Human Services during his administration, and at the top of the list are New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) and former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, more than a dozen people with knowledge of the matter told Politico.

The health secretary will be busy right off the bat, helping manage the government's COVID-19 response, pushing out messaging about the virus, and coordinating the immunization process. If Lujan Grisham, 61, is selected, she would be the first Latina nominated for the position. Should Murthy, 43, be picked, he will be the first nominee of Indian descent.

UnidosUS President Janet Murguia told Politico Lujan Grisham has "seen directly the impact of COVID-19 on her state and managed the response — and she's had to do a lot because there hasn't been a lot of federal guidance. She knows what it's like to lead in this space and is a very credible candidate."

Murthy is an internist who is now serving as one of Biden's top advisers on the coronavirus pandemic and co-chair of his COVID-19 advisory board. If Murthy doesn't get selected, several people familiar with the matter told Politico it's basically guaranteed that he will get another top health role in the administration.

Biden is still considering a few other candidates, three Democrats with knowledge of the situation told Politico, including Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) and former Louisiana health secretary Rebekah Gee. It's likely he won't announce his choice until Monday, at the earliest.

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