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Federal File: Transition time

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Speculation about whom President-elect George Bush will appoint to Cabinet posts, including that of Secretary of Education, is a major preoccupation of Washington insiders these days.

Some observers think Mr. Bush will allow Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos to retain his post next year. They cite Mr. Bush's promise to have a Hispanic in his Cabinet, Mr. Cavazos' efforts on behalf of the Bush campaign, and reports that Mr. Bush was involved in the selection of Mr. Cavazos earlier this year.

But others point to a number of reasons why that may not happen. They suggest that Mr. Bush might be pressured by the Republican Party's right wing to appoint a conservative, or that he might want to reward a long-time supporter with the job, or that he might want someone with a higher profile than the low-key Mr. Cavazos.

Mr. Bush was noncommittal when asked by reporters if Mr. Cavazos would stay on, and several people who advised the Bush campaign on education said recently that they didn't think any decision had been made. One of them, Representative William F. Goodling, is interested in the job himself. Mr. Goodling, who is known as an advocate for education, is in line to be ranking Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee in the 101st Congress.

Other potential candidates for the job include current and former governors known for their work on education: New Jersey's Thomas H. Kean and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who is now president of the University of Tennessee. The Washington Post reported last week that Mr. Kean is under consideration to be Secretary of Transportation, but is more interested in the education post.

Also last week, one of Mr. Goodling's colleagues on the Education and Labor panel announced that he would like to be Secretary of Agriculture. Representative E. Thomas Coleman of Missouri is ranking Republican on the panel's postsecondary-education subcommittee.

Seats at the Cabinet table are not the only positions up for grabs. Aspiring office-holders are poring over the new "plum book," a compendium of jobs open to political appointment that is always a best-seller at transition time.

It lists more than 200 such jobs at the Education Department, as well as dozens of related advisory-board slots.

President Reagan recently asked all senior political appointees to resign, but that doesn't mean they will all be replaced. And many political appointees are lower-level managers or aides, some of whom will try to stay put.--jm

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