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Transportation post would cap meteoric rise for Buttigieg

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US President-elect Joe Biden has picked former South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg to be his Transportation Secretary./AFP
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Dec 16, 2020 - 07:17 AM

WASHINGTON — Pete Buttigieg’s nomination to be transportation secretary caps a meteoric rise for the former small town Indiana mayor and could make him the first openly gay Senate-confirmed member of a US presidential cabinet.

President-elect Joe Biden confirmed Tuesday he would nominate Buttigieg, who challenged the former vice president for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, to head the mammoth Department of Transportation.

Buttigieg, 38, is the first Democratic primary campaign rival selected by Biden for his cabinet. The 78-year-old Biden chose another primary opponent, California Senator Kamala Harris, to be his running mate.

The Harvard- and Oxford-educated Buttigieg was the first openly gay person to launch a major presidential campaign in the United States.

Buttigieg mounted a strong challenge to Biden, Harris, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and other Democratic hopefuls before eventually dropping out of the race in March 2020 and endorsing Biden.

Buttigieg campaigned for Biden against President Donald Trump, and the president-elect has compared him to his late son Beau Biden, saying that was the “highest compliment” he can give to anyone.

“Pete Buttigieg is a patriot and a problem-solver who speaks to the best of who we are as a nation,” Biden said Tuesday.

Buttigieg will be tasked with carrying out one of Biden’s chief campaign promises: repairing America’s crumbling infrastructure by rebuilding roads and bridges.

‘Historic nomination’ 

If confirmed by the Senate, Buttigieg would be the first openly gay Senate-confirmed member of a White House cabinet.

Richard Grenell, Trump’s former Director of National Intelligence, is also openly gay, but he was named to the post in an acting capacity and was never confirmed by the Senate.

Buttigieg worked as a management consultant for McKinsey and Co. before serving as the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, from 2012-2020.

He put his civic duties on hold in 2014 to deploy to Afghanistan as a US Navy intelligence officer.

His husband, Chasten Buttigieg, is a drama teacher. They were married in 2018.

Biden and Harris, the first Black woman and first person of Indian heritage to serve as vice president, have pledged to name the “most diverse” cabinet in US history, and reports of Buttigieg’s nomination earlier Tuesday were welcomed by LGBTQ groups.

With Buttigieg’s “historic nomination,” Biden and Harris are “keeping their promise, representing a significant step in creating an administration that reflects the diversity and life experiences of America,” said Human Rights Campaign president Alphonso David.

“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,” David said.

Annise Parker, president of the LGBTQ Victory Institute, said the nomination would be a “a new milestone in a decades-long effort to ensure LGBTQ people are represented throughout our government.”

“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,” Parker said.

The Department of Transportation is one of the largest agencies in the US government, with an annual budget of more than $90 billion and more than 55,000 employees.

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