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Salazar to Lead Scandal-Ridden Interior Dept.

Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Col.) has accepted President-elect Barack Obama’s offer to become the next secretary of the interior, The Colorado Independent reports.

Salazar, a centrist first-term senator, will take the helm of a department that was rocked this year by a sex, cocaine and bribery scandal. Cleaning up the bureaucracy at interior will likely be as high a priority as cleaning up the nation’s parks.

Salazar’s selection marks the fourth elevation of a popular Democratic senator to the new administration, after Obama, Vice President-elect Joe Biden and Secretary of State designee Hillary Clinton. Their appointments have all led to controversies over their replacements.

And the removal of yet another beloved senator has caused concern over the Democrats’ prospects in the Senate in years to come. But as Nate Silver argues, now that Colorado has swung blue, this may actually represent an opportunity for Gov. Bill Ritter to replace the moderate Salazar with a liberal more in line with Obama’s progressive agenda. Silver has a nice breakdown of Salazar’s potential successors.

Late this morning, Obama is expected to name Arne Duncan, who heads the Chicago public school system, as his secretary of education. I’ll be blogging on that press conference shortly after noon ET.

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