LaHood won't be back for 2nd term
WASHINGTON — Ray LaHood, the Illinois Republican who turned distracted driving into a national crusade while serving a Democratic president, will step down after four years as President Obama's Transportation secretary.
LaHood is the only Republican in the Cabinet, a mantle that will be carried by former Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska if he wins Senate confirmation as secretary of Defense.
LaHood's relentless campaign against distracted driving, his safety-first mantra and his determination to visit every state in the union gave the Peoria native a higher profile than several predecessors in the role, traditionally played out in the shadow of more glamorous Cabinet jobs.
LaHood made the announcement in a statement on Tuesday: “I have let President Obama know that I will not serve a second term as Secretary of the Department of Transportation. It has been an honor and a privilege to lead the Department, and I am grateful to President Obama for giving me such an extraordinary opportunity. I plan to stay on until my successor is confirmed to ensure a smooth transition for the Department and all the important work we still have to do.”
There was no immediate word from the White House on who would replace him, but the fact that LaHood held off any announcement during a period when other second-term Cabinet appointments were being announced hinted that an active search may have been under way.
The rumor mill was rife with suggestions, including Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who made a name for himself by rebuilding that city's transit system, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman and James Oberstar, the former Minnesota congressman who once chaired the House transportation committee.
But the Transportation secretary nominee often has defied Beltway gossip, most recently with the selection of LaHood, and during the administration of President George W. Bush with the appointment of Norman Mineta, a Californian who served as a Democrat in Congress.
Obama thanked LaHood in a statement issued by the White House: “I want to thank Secretary LaHood for his dedication, his hard work, and his years of service to the American people — including the outstanding work he's done over the last four years as Secretary of Transportation. I also want to thank Ray for his friendship.”
Serving in the Cabinet of a Democratic president tested political skills LaHood learned on Capitol Hill, first as a top aide to House Minority Leader Bob Michel and later after assuming the congressional seat when his mentor retired. During the 14 years he represented the district of his hometown, Peoria, LaHood saw Congress evolve from a stage for compromise into a more contentious ideological battleground.
He served on the House transportation committee, which continued as a relative oasis of compromise for two simple reasons: the universal need for transportation made it bipartisan, and the desire of individual members to earmark funding for their districts made negotiating an art.
Though earmarks fell by the wayside after he left Congress, his skill at finding compromise and his ability to cross party lines proved valuable to the Obama administration.
“Four years ago, my good friend Ray LaHood put party politics aside in order to help modernize our transportation infrastructure and speed our economic recovery,” Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-W.Va., ranking Democrat on the transportation committee, said in a statement. “During his incredibly successful tenure, Secretary LaHood was a staunch advocate for job-creating infrastructure investments, including high-speed rail, and he leaves an unparalleled legacy in making our highways, skies, rail, and transit systems safer.”
LaHood's nomination to the Cabinet and his influence within the administration was enormously enhanced by the fact that one of his closest friends - Rahm Emanuel - was the president's chief of staff. LaHood and Emanuel, now mayor of Chicago, exchanged phone calls or text messages on a daily basis.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Reports: Actor Ford seriously injured in small-plane crash in L.A.
- Lawmakers press Veterans Affairs for improved access to rural health care
- Feds raid ‘maternity hotels’ in Ca.
- Appeals court tosses gag order in ex-coal company CEO’s case
- Blankenship: US prosecution ‘selective and vindictive’
- Feds weighed national standards but let North Dakota set regulations for oil trains’ safety
- Young white males replace older black men as OD victims as heroin deaths climb
- Modified endoscope linked to deadly ‘superbug’ outbreak lacked FDA approval
- 1st suicide try likely last, says new study
- Lawmakers move to require schools to teach cursive amid Common Core wrangling