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President-Elect Biden Taps Pete Buttigieg for Transportation Secretary

December 15, 2020 by Dan McCue
Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg addresses voters at the Royal Baptist Family Life and Banquet Center in North Charleston, S.C. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WILMINGTON, Del. – President-elect Joe Biden has selected Pete Buttigieg, a former rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, to be the next Secretary of Transportation.

Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who has never held federal office, and if confirmed, would be the first LGBTQ cabinet secretary to be approved by the U.S. Senate.

Word of a pending announcement on Buttigieg’s nomination was first reported by Reuters, citing “two people familiar with the matter.”

The president-elect himself did not respond to a shouted question about the nomination as he arrived in Atlanta to campaign for the Democratic Senate candidates competing in Georgia’s upcoming runoff elections.

But once word was out, it rapidly spread among his friends and long time associates.

“We are so pleased to see longtime NewDEALer Pete Buttigieg selected to join President-elect Biden’s Cabinet!” exclaimed NewDEAL Leaders, a group the former mayor has long been associated with.

The NewDEAL is a selective national network of exceptional, rising, pro-growth progressive state and local elected leaders.

“As mayor of South Bend, Pete’s data-driven and results-oriented leadership style led to innovative policy decisions to address the everyday challenges in his city, and we look forward to him bringing the same smart approach to transportation policy in his new role,” the organization said.

“State and city officials in the NewDEAL network and beyond can look forward to working with a strong ally in the administration to tackle issues of equity, access, sustainability, and other transportation challenges,” it added.

Buttigieg will actually be the second NewDEAL alum to hold the top Transportation post. Another alum, Anthony Foxx, served as Transportation Secretary from 2013 to 2017 under the Obama Administration.

Buttigieg surprised many earlier this year when he won the first-in-the-nation caucuses in Iowa.

Though he failed to gain traction after that, he proved to be a formidable fundraiser and built a considerable following via social media.

After Biden won the South Carolina primary in February, Buttigieg quickly dropped out and endorsed him, helping the eventual president-elect to consolidate the support of the moderate wing of the party and turn back a challenge by Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Throughout the summer and into the fall, Buttigieg was a tireless surrogate for the Biden campaign, and it was rumored he was in the running for several slots in the new administration, ranging from the head of the Department of Veterans Affairs to ambassador to China.

As Transportation secretary, he would put his background in urban affairs to use by overseeing a sprawling federal agency that oversees U.S. highways, air travel and transit systems.

Among those cheering his pending nomination Tuesday was Annise Parker, president and CEO of LGBTQ Victory Institute, the gay rights organization.

“Pete’s nomination is a new milestone in a decades-long effort to ensure LGBTQ people are represented throughout our government – and its impact will reverberate well-beyond the department he will lead,” Parker said. “It distances our nation from a troubled legacy of barring out LGBTQ people from government positions and moves us closer to the president-elect’s vision of a government that reflects America.

“As an out LGBTQ person, Pete will bring a unique perspective that will inform and influence policy throughout the federal government. Most important, however, is that Pete will bring his intellect and energy to the Department of Transportation and our nation will be better off because of it,” she said.

Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organizations, responded to the reports of Buttigieg’s nomination by calling it “a significant step in creating an administration that reflects the diversity and life experiences of America. 

“Mayor Pete Buttigieg was open and honest about his identity throughout his time on the national scene, giving a voice to our community, and a new vision of who and how our leaders can love,” David said. “His voice as a champion for the LGBTQ community in the Cabinet room will help President-elect Biden build back our nation better, stronger and more equal than before.

“This is a historic moment for our community…We strongly urge speedy confirmation of Mayor Buttigieg’s nomination by the United States Senate so the Biden-Harris administration can hit the ground running and address the many crises facing our community and our nation,” he said.

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