U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, the Cabinet’s only Republican, says he will leave his position in 2013 if President Obama is re-elected.
LaHood, 65, told reporters at a media luncheon about his intentions but gave no reason for his plan, his spokeswoman, Jill Zuckman, said later. Zuckman said LaHood had not discussed his plans with Obama, whose term ends in January 2013.
LaHood told reporters that there would be “wonderful opportunities” for him in 2013. Some reports have mentioned him as a possible gubernatorial candidate in his home state of Illinois, but he has ruled that out.
|Ray LaHood was a longtime GOP congressman before becoming Transportation Secretary.|
After LaHood’s remarks were reported, he released this statement:
“I serve at the pleasure of the president, and it is an honor to look out for the safety of the American public when it comes to planes, trains, automobiles and more.
“Throughout this term, we have also focused our efforts on creating jobs as we rebuild our roads, rails and runways, and I look forward to working with Congress to pass the American Jobs Act so we can put Americans back to work.”
LaHood retired in 2008 after serving 14 years as a Republican congressman from Illinois. Before his own congressional service, he was a top aide to then-House Republican leader Robert H. Michel of Illinois.
LaHood had a reputation in Congress as a moderate who tried to foster bipartisan cooperation, according to the New York Times. Both the Times and the Associated Press called LaHood “a plain-spoken advocate for safe driving and job-creating transportation projects.”
“Even when he has made a misstep—such as last year, when he urged the car owners during a House committee hearing to quit driving Toyotas, when he meant to tell them to take their recalled vehicles to a dealer—he has been quick to correct himself,” the AP said.
However, what was perceived as LaHood’s rush to judgment on Toyota also drew criticism and calls for his resignation from some in the business community.
The AP noted that LaHood has won favor with bicyclists by adopting a policy that gives biking and walking projects the same consideration in determining grant eligibility as projects involving motorized transportation.
Still, reports agree, LaHood’s Republican credentials have not helped Obama make any significant inroads against GOP opposition to his current jobs proposal or his previous economic stimulus program.