The police chief and sheriff of Los Angeles could be candidates to become the next secretary of homeland security, outgoing secretary Tom Ridge (search) says. Ridge praised Police Chief William Bratton and Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, saying they understand how to protect large cities from terrorism.

"These two are doing this for their entire careers, so it's no surprise that their names are being publicly mentioned and maybe even privately discussed," Ridge said Wednesday at a news conference to announce $282 million in homeland-security money for California.

Ridge declined to comment on whether the White House has seriously considered either man.

Bratton, a former New York City police commissioner, said the administration has not approached him, but he might be receptive to an offer. "If the president comes knocking on your door, you naturally have to take him seriously," Bratton said.

Baca dismissed the reports as "rumors" and said he was not interested.

"I have the greatest job of anybody in law enforcement," Baca said. "The president is not going to nominate me, so let's not even ask the question."

Speculation about Ridge's replacement has been intense since President Bush's first choice, Bernard Kerik (search), withdrew from consideration. Kerik, also a former New York City police commissioner, admitted briefly employing an illegal immigrant as a housekeeper and nanny.

Ridge announced his resignation Nov. 30. He plans to remain in the job until Feb. 1, unless the Senate confirms his successor earlier.