Where Cabinet Members of GOP Presidential Candidates Stand on 2024

There is more loyalty by those who served in the cabinets of at least half of the others in the GOP presidential primary than those who served in Trump’s cabinet.
Where Cabinet Members of GOP Presidential Candidates Stand on 2024
(From left) Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Vice President Mike Pence, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, entrepreneur and author Vivek Ramaswamy, former South Carolina governor and U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, U.S. Senator from South Carolina Tim Scott, and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, arrive to take part in the first Republican Presidential primary debate at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wis., on Aug. 23, 2023. (Pedro Ugarte/AFP via Getty Images)
Jackson Richman
While most of those who served under former President Donald Trump’s cabinet reportedly declined or will not say whether they support their former boss, there is more loyalty by those who served in the cabinets of at least half of the others in the GOP presidential primary.
The Epoch Times reached out to those who served in the cabinets of former Govs. Nikki Haley (R-S.C.), Mike Pence (R-Ind.), Chris Christie (R-N.J.) and Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.) and to those who have served under Govs. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) and Doug Burgum (R-N.D.). Most did not respond to requests for comment, and many could not be reached.


Of Mr. Trump’s 42 former cabinet members, only four are supporting his third run for the White House, reported NBC News: former Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, former acting Attorney General Matthew Whittaker, former acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell.

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who passed on a White House run and has not endorsed any of the 2024 candidates, said at an event in July that he will support the eventual GOP nominee “because I am reasonably certain that person will make life better for my children and grandchildren than whoever the Democrats put up, so that seems like a layup.”

Former Attorney General Bill Barr is not supporting Mr. Trump in the primary but has not said whether he would vote for him were he to be the GOP nominee.

Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper has said on TV that he is not and would not support his former boss.


Of the 49 current and former Burgum cabinet members, 12 responded. Nine of them expressed support for Mr. Burgum, who has been the governor of North Dakota since 2016, while three declined to comment.

Shawn Kessel, who served as interim commerce commissioner of North Dakota and is now the state’s deputy commerce commissioner, said in an email that he is supporting Mr. Burgum’s candidacy because the businessman-turned-governor “is one of the smartest people I know” and due to “his vision and his philosophy of “innovation over regulation,” his focus and understanding of economics, his understanding of the value of small towns in the United States (especially as it relates to workforce) and the practicality he brings to the energy discussion.”

Pam Sharp, who led the North Dakota Office of Management and Budget, said she is backing Mr. Burgum’s run for the White House “because I absolutely do not want Donald Trump to get the nomination.”

Leann Bertsch, former North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation director, said that she is supporting her former boss as “he is a wonderful governor and an amazing leader.”

“Our country needs an intelligent and thoughtful person like Governor Burgum to lead our nation,” she added.

Mylynn Tufte, who led the Peace Garden State’s health department, remarked she is “enthusiastically supporting” Mr. Burgum.

“I’ve witnessed firsthand his level of leadership and know that he has the knowledge, courage and passion to do what’s right for the American people…just like he’s done for North Dakotans,” she said. “His platform of the economy, energy and national security are important items that will advance health, safety and well-being for all.”

Josh Teigen, who is North Dakota’s commerce commissioner, stated he “unequivocally support[s] his boss’ run.

“No one is better suited to lead this country than Doug Burgum,” he said. “A Burgum presidency would lead our country to new heights of energy security, national security, and economic prosperity for all Americans. Burgum has the ability to unite both sides of the aisle, which is needed more than ever in DC.”

Bill Panos, who led the North Dakota Department of Transportation, said he is “very supportive” of Mr. Burgum’s candidacy. He did not respond to a follow-up request for comment to elaborate on why he supports his former boss.

Joe Morrissette, who was the director of the North Dakota Office of Management and Budget, said he backs Mr. Burgum’s run and, while not involved in the campaign, he donated to his campaign.

“I appreciate his common sense approach to economic policy and energy policy,” he said.

Scott Davis, who was executive director of the North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission, cited Mr. Burgum’s “work ethic, his strong policy background on economics, health care, infrastructure, education, oil and energy gas” and the governor as an assessable leader as the reasons behind his support of Mr. Burgum’s candidacy.

“I see candidate Burgum as the only candidate out there that is wanting to direct his resources, his campaign efforts towards a new country,” he said. “And I told him that would assist him on that.”

Mr. Davis also cited Mr. Burgum’s experience in reaching out to North Dakota’s Indian tribes and, when it comes to the foreign policy he lacks as governor, Mr. Burgum’s global business experience.

Shawn Riley, who was North Dakota’s chief information officer, said he supports Mr. Burgum’s run for the Oval Office as he “is a true servant leader” and “sets pride and ego aside and honestly works to help people.”

“His policies are common sense and truly push America back to a prosperous future,” he said.

Cheri Schoenfish, who was North Dakota’s first Chief People Officer, said she supports Mr. Burgum’s run for president.

“I have witnessed, first hand, Doug’s leadership skills for over 30 years,” she said. “He has the unique ability to listen, learn and unite people. I do believe that is what our country needs right now.”

Kelsey Roth, who succeeded Ms. Schoenfish, and Susan Sisk, who heads North Dakota’s Office of Management and Budget, declined to comment. Maj. Gen. Alan Dohrmann, the adjutant general of the North Dakota National Guard, declined to comment in accordance with The Hatch Act, which includes prohibiting federal officials from endorsing a candidate.


For Ms. Haley, who served as South Carolina governor between 2011 and 2017, just seven of her 36 former cabinet members responded to whether they are supporting her or would support her if she becomes the GOP nominee (William B. Byars, Jr., who headed the Palmetto State’s Department of Juvenile Justice and Department of Corrections, died in 2019). Six of them said they are backing her quest to become America’s first female president.

Those who are supporting her in the primary provided reasons from executive experience to characteristics such as leadership.

Richele Taylor, who served as South Carolina’s Director of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, called Ms. Haley “a straight shooter who gets things done” and cited that as governor, “she handled pressing issues and was not afraid to take on difficult topics and solve problems.”

“She also inspires her team to work as hard as she does,” she said.

Holly Pisarik, who succeeded Ms. Taylor and was Ms. Haley’s chief legal counsel, cited Ms. Haley’s “deep love for our state and country, ability to lead through prosperous and difficult times, toughness to stand up for what is right, and unwavering commitment to making us a stronger nation“ and that ”she is what our country needs.”

Kevin Shwedo, the executive director of the Palmetto State’s Department of Motor Vehicles, remarked that she “was expert at providing intent, guidance and oversight that empowered members of the cabinet” and that she got the job done in times of need.

Mr. Shwedo, who called himself an unconditional supporter of Ms. Haley, said that “during periods of disaster, she was able to provide ’strategic' guidance to guarantee not only the fastest recovery of any state I am aware of, but ensured both state and federal money went to those with the greatest need.”

Cheryl Stanton, who was executive director of the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce, simply said she is supporting her former boss. She declined to elaborate on the record.

Anthony Keck, who led the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, said that Ms. Haley “consistently prioritized the concerns of her constituents above all else.

“And, as an American, I am so proud that she stood up to Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea as our Ambassador to the [United Nations].”

Duane Parrish, the director of the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism, is supporting Ms. Haley’s candidacy due to her leadership, namely in times of need, her genuineness, and for bettering the Palmetto State’s economy.

Kela Thomas, who led the South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services and is now a state magistrate judge, declined to comment as the magistrate’s office said she is ethically prohibited from supporting any candidate.


For Mr. Christie, who was New Jersey’s governor between 2010 and 2018, of his 51 former cabinet members, just four responded (Jamie Fox, who led New Jersey’s transportation department, died in 2017). All said they are supporting his presidential campaign.

Former Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R-N.J.) is supporting her former boss’ campaign. She did not respond to a follow-up request asking why she supports Mr. Christie’s bid.

Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff, who was the Garden State’s treasurer, said that Mr. Christie is “a strong leader of integrity, intellect, and practical center-right moderation” and “has the vision, energy, and skills to move the Republican Party beyond Donald Trump and our bitterly divided country forward.”

Mary O'Dowd, who was the commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health, said she “strongly” backs Mr. Christie’s campaign and remarked that “it’s refreshing to have a pragmatic leader talking about how to bring people with different perspectives together to solve the difficult problems facing the American people.

“Christie has a clear record of doing just that in New Jersey.”

Gary Lanigan, who was the commissioner of the Garden State’s Department of Corrections, remarked that Mr. Christie’s “handling of Hurricane Sandy is an excellent example of his ability to rise above party politics for the good of the citizens.” He cited Mr. Christie’s experience reaching across the aisle.

“His handshake with President [Barack] Obama and close work with Senate President [Stephen] Sweeney are examples of his ability to reach across the aisle and achieve results,” he said. “I think this is exactly what our country needs today.”


For Mr. Pence, who was governor of Indiana between 2013 and 2017,  six of the 37 former members of his cabinet responded (Carol Comer, who was commissioner of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, and Steve Braun, who served as commissioner of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, died in 2021 and 2022, respectively). Three of them are supporting him in the primary.

Gov. Eric Holcomb, who was the Hoosier State’s lieutenant governor under Mr. Pence, endorsed his gubernatorial predecessor on June 21, a couple weeks after Mr. Pence launched his candidacy.

“Never once has he sacrificed an ounce of integrity in service to our state and nation as congressman, governor and vice president,” he said in a statement posted on X, formerly Twitter.

“Mike’s long been known to be forthright on the issues of the day, convicted in thought, and a consistent messenger regarding America’s role, at home and abroad, as a powerful force for good,” continued Mr. Holcomb. “He’s experienced, allergic to personal scandal, and prepared to serve as our next president on day one.”

Victor Smith, who was Indiana’s Secretary of Commerce, said that Mr. Pence has the “integrity and strong character” to be president and that he “is the most qualified of anybody in the race.”

Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter said that the former governor “changed my life forever and I’m a very loyal guy and I would do anything to help him.” Mr. Carter remarked that he did not expect to lead the state police and that during Mr. Pence’s governorship, “I came to know him both as a leader as a leader of our state and also as a man and as a father and I just had come to really, really admire him and that admiration stands today.”

Mr. Carter added that although Mr. Pence believes in deferring to localities, he was someone “ready to assist anybody that might need their help.

“And I saw him do that time after time after time when nobody was looking. Whether that be with a simple phone call to a family member, whether that be to a note of encouragement to a local leader or mayor commissioner, councilman, whoever that might be in direct contact with me on a routine basis when bad things were happening around the state of Indiana.”

Mr. Carter went on to say that Mr. Pence “would be one of those guys who would care deeply about what’s happening not only in rural ... America, but also for those in those urban areas where the federal government might have for assistance.”

Mr. Holcomb’s predecessor as lieutenant governor, Sue Ellspermann, now the president of Ivy Tech Community College, declined to comment, with Mary Jane Michalak, vice president of the school’s legal and public affairs, saying that Ms. Ellspermann “is not commenting on any candidates for public office” due to her position with the tax-exempt college.

Jerome Adams, who served as Indiana Health Commissioner before becoming U.S. Surgeon General, declined to take a stance on Mr. Pence’s campaign, but said that he would be willing to “guide health policy for him or any other presidential candidate, should they ask for my advice or assistance.”

Nonetheless, Mr. Adams said, “My personal experience with Mike Pence is that he’s a good person and effective leader who tries to do the right thing. Further, and especially as a black male, he has supported me throughout my career in public service. I’m proud of the work we did together to legalize syringe service programs in the state and to launch the Healthy Indiana Plan, which provided health coverage to hundreds of thousands of low-income Hoosiers.”

Debra Minott, who led the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration during the first couple years of Mr. Pence’s gubernatorial term, said she is not supporting her former boss in the primary as she does not see him “as a decisive executive” nor winning the GOP nomination.

Nonetheless, were Mr. Pence to be his party’s nominee, she would cast her ballot for him “because I am very concerned about what the Democrats are doing to this country” and therefore, “it would be a case of voting for the lesser of two unfavorable choices.”

Instead, Ms. Minott said she is “following” Mr. DeSantis and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy.


For Mr. Hutchinson, who was governor of Arkansas between 2015 and 2023, of his 16 former cabinet members, three responded, and all said they are supporting their former boss’ campaign.

Stacy Hurst, who was secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, said she is an “enthusiastic supporter” of Mr. Hutchinson’s candidacy.

“I’ve seen firsthand Governor Hutchinson’s smart, thoughtful and conservative approach to governing. His resume is remarkable and illustrates his ability to effectively lead the country from day one,” she said.

“In Arkansas, Governor Hutchinson embraced civil discourse and avoided the harsh and divisive rhetoric that is prevalent in politics today,” continued Ms. Hurst. “He’s steady and consistent, believes in the best of America, and is truly one of the hardest-working people I know. Our country would be well-served by an Asa Hutchinson presidency.”

Johnny Key, who led the Arkansas Department of Education, said he has known Mr. Hutchinson for three decades.

“He has been a courageous and steadfast leader committed to conservative principles, and that is something our nation desperately needs now,” he said.

Mr. Key cited Mr. Hutchinson’s experience negotiating a peaceful end to “a tense armed standoff between law enforcement” and a white supremacist group, thereby avoiding another Waco or Ruby Ridge.

He also noted Mr. Hutchinson rebuilding the Arkansas GOP amid the popular Clinton years as the former president previously was the governor of Arkansas.

“It was hard to find very many Arkansans who claimed to be a Republican, but Asa kept raising money and recruiting candidates, and kept a solid foundation that helped pave the way for others to follow,” said Mr. Key.

Mr. Key also mentioned Mr. Hutchinson being one of the House impeachment managers during Mr. Clinton’s impeachment.

“He has always been committed to the rule of law, even if it is not the best political choice,” he said. “He could have taken the politically expedient path and allowed another GOP congressman to take that role, but he stepped up because he thought it was the right thing to do.”

Moreover, Mr. Key cited Mr. Hutchinson balancing the budget annually during his governorship “while cutting income taxes and leaving $2 billion in reserves.”

At the end of the day, said Mr. Key, Mr. Hutchinson “knows that the federal government cannot and should not do everything for everyone, but it still must work, and it must work effectively.”

Mark Berry, who led the Arkansas National Guard, said he is supporting Mr. Hutchinson. He did not respond to a follow-up request asking why he is backing his former boss.


For Mr. DeSantis, who has been Florida’s governor since 2019, just two of his nine cabinet or former cabinet members have endorsed his run: Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez (R-Fla.) and Laurel Lee, who served as the Sunshine State’s secretary of state and is now a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Jackson Richman is a Washington correspondent for The Epoch Times. In addition to Washington politics, he covers the intersection of politics and sports/sports and culture. He previously was a writer at Mediaite and Washington correspondent at Jewish News Syndicate. His writing has also appeared in The Washington Examiner. He is an alum of George Washington University.
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