On Wednesday, a story in The Washington Post sent shockwaves through the media. President Obama was reportedly vetting Nevada Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval as a possible Supreme Court replacement for the late Antonin Scalia. Sandoval would've been the first Mexican-American on the court, and only the second Hispanic after Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
Some press reports have speculated that floating Sandoval's name for the court was an attempt to embarrass Senate Republicans over their refusal to consider any Obama nominee. If so, it didn't really work. After news of Sandoval's vetting broke, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellPuerto Rico debt relief faces serious challenges in Senate Overnight Healthcare: Momentum on mental health? | Zika bills head to conference | Only 10 ObamaCare co-ops left Trump outlines ‘America First’ energy plan MORE (R-Ky.) reiterated that the next justice "will be determined by whoever wins the presidency in the fall." Similarly, Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynOvernight Tech: House GOP launches probe into phone, internet subsidies Senators hope for deal soon on mental health bill GOP leader pushes for special counsel to investigate Clinton emails MORE (R-Texas) said "This is not about the personality."
Had Sandoval been nominated, any blocking of his confirmation would have highlighted the obstructionism by congressional Republicans. Blocking a fellow Republican — and a Hispanic, to boot — would've been a public relations nightmare for the GOP. So maybe Sandoval was wise to step away from such a high-profile controversy.
Sandoval would not have been a great choice for Obama anyway. In 2011, Sandoval called the Affordable Care Act (ACA) "unconstitutional" and later signed briefs saying that the Supreme Court "should hold the ACA invalid in its entirety." While he has since expanded Medicaid in his state, if his original position on ObamaCare had been successful, today there would be no ACA. Sandoval also supports voter ID laws, which is another red flag for liberals, as these laws have been shown to disproportionately affect poor and minority voters.
Sandoval is not viewed as labor-friendly, most notably for his signing a bill into law that exempted school construction projects from paying contractors a prevailing wage. His labor views are significant because, if he had joined the court, he would've been considering Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case involving the financing of public unions through mandatory employee dues.
Sandoval believes Obama overstepped his authority with his executive action on immigration. Here again, his views would've been relevant, as a Justice Sandoval could've been the deciding vote when the Supreme Court takes up the lawsuits brought by Texas and other states (including Nevada) against the president's program.
In addition, Sandoval has what could be termed professional commitment issues: the habit of bailing out of one job for another. Although he was elected to two terms in the Nevada State Assembly, he left before his second term was over to join the Nevada Gaming Commission. That office had a four-year term, but he resigned after three years to successfully run for Nevada attorney general. Three years later, he left that job early when he was appointed a federal judge, which is a lifetime appointment. After about four years, he bounced out of that position to run for governor. This track record would have certainly come up at a confirmation hearing, given that Sandoval is only 52 and Supreme Court justices serve a lifetime appointment.
True, Sandoval is a very popular governor who has been willing to break with the GOP party line on issues like same-sex marriage, abortion rights and allowing undocumented immigrants in his state to legally drive. Nominating him to the court would've brought immense pride to the Latino community, such as we saw with the nomination of Sotomayor in 2009. But for the record, Sandoval has not always been an ally to Latinos; he supported Arizona's infamous "papers please" law, which drew widespread opposition from Hispanics.
Besides, there are other qualified people of color who could help Obama make history. U.S. Circuit Court Judge Sri Srinivasan, who is South Asian, would be an outstanding pick, as would be Attorney General Loretta Lynch. If the president is committed to nominating another Latino, both Mariano-Florentino Cuellar, a California State Supreme Court judge, and U.S. Circuit Judge Adalberto Jordan have solid legal credentials and are eminently qualified for the job.
No matter how the drama over replacing Scalia plays out, Gov. Sandoval was not the best choice for a Supreme Court nod. Instead, President Obama should find a strong, progressive nominee for the high court.
Reyes is an attorney and columnist in New York City. He is also an NBCNews.com contributor.