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Chavez: 'I would do it again'

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Linda Chavez acknowledged Wednesday the mistakes which led her to withdraw her cabinet nomination, but said she was not ashamed of her actions and would do it all over again, even if it led to the same consequences.

Chavez bowed out Tuesday as President-elect George W. Bush's pick for labor secretary, saying questions over her relationship with Marta Mercado, an illegal immigrant who lived in her home and performed chores, had become a distraction.

"I don't believe what I did with Marta was illegal or was unethical or wrong," Chavez told CNN Wednesday. "She was being battered and I invited her into my home. I provided her with assistance, I helped her get back to Guatemala, and I believe that was an act of compassion."

The situation was nothing to be ashamed of, she said, adding, "I would do it again, even if it means I can't be secretary of labor."

As she described in her news conference Tuesday, Chavez said the help given to Mercado was part of a lifelong habit of helping people in need, a habit she encourages in others.

But Chavez said she regretted the effect her actions had on the Bush transition team, which now is searching for a nominee to replace Chavez. "I made mistakes and I put the Bush transition team in a very difficult position," Chavez said. "I understand it and I regret it, and I especially regret it because I deeply, deeply believe in this president."

Several names have surfaced as possible nominees, all of which Chavez called "excellent people." Among them: Former Rep. Jim Talent of Missouri; Eloise Anderson, the director of California's Department of Welfare under GOP Gov. Pete Wilson; Rep. Jennifer Dunn of Washington; Elaine Chao, former deputy transportation secretary; and Steven Goldsmith, former mayor of Indianapolis.

"I really hope that [Bush] is able to pick someone who is able to go forward with a little more ease than I was," Chavez said.


Wednesday, January 10, 2001


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