President-elect Joe Biden will tap his former Democratic presidential rival Pete Buttigieg to be transportation secretary.
Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., broke through a crowded field of candidates to become a frontrunner for the Democratic nomination and made history after becoming the first gay person to win a state.
The 38-year-old dropped out of the race prior to Super Tuesday and threw his support behind Biden, becoming a key surrogate for the President-elect during his successful campaign against Donald Trump.
Buttigieg could potentially become the first gay person to be confirmed by the Senate to a cabinet position, and would be the first gay person to serve as Secretary of Transportation.
He would step into the role at a time when transportation has been upended by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Post reporting multiple states projecting billions of dollars in shortfalls for their transportation agencies, as well as major disruption to air travel and cuts to services including D.C.’s Metro.
Controlling a federal department with a $90 billion budget would provide Buttigieg with necessary additional experience to bolster his credentials ahead of another presidential run, should he opt to do so.
The LGBTQ Victory Institute, which advocates for LGBTQ representation in government office, cheered Buttigieg’s nomination.
“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,” Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Institute, said in a statement. “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 continued: “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.”
Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David issued a statement praising President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris for “keeping their promise, representing 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 continued. “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 called Buttigieg’s nomination a “historic moment for our community,” and said HRC will continue to “engage with the Biden-Harris Transition team to ensure that LGBTQ people will be appointed at all levels of government and that those appointments will reflect the full diversity of our community, including and especially LGBTQ people of color and transgender and gender non-conforming people. It is absolutely critical that we as a community continue to uplift and empower the most marginalized among us to ensure the full tapestry of our voices are heard.”
Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, said in a statement that Buttigieg’s “historic first” should be “just that — the first — of more LGBTQ nominees at this and other levels of government service.”
“Our community has a deep, diverse and talented bench to serve in all agencies,” Carey said. “We know the day will come when we will have accomplished the “firsts” and can celebrate the full range of contributions made by LGBTQ people in government.”
GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis praised the “historic milestone” of Buttigieg’s nomination, adding that his “experience and skills as a leader, manager and brilliant communicator, combined with his heartland roots and his unqualified commitment to diversity and equality, will improve the lives of all Americans as Transportation Secretary.”
Buttigieg landed the position after the Biden camp reportedly struggled to decide what role to offer the polyglot and former Rhodes Scholar, with U.S. Ambassador to China and commerce secretary also floated as potential jobs.
Prior to the election, Buttigieg — who is married to teacher and author Chasten Buttigieg — urged LGBTQ people to get out the vote, promising that “help is on the way” with a Biden administration.
“The most important message to the community is that help is on the way, and we’re trying to make sure we see that through,” Buttigieg said. “The most powerful thing we can do right now is to vote.”
He noted that Biden has committed to passing the Equality Act, which would enshrine LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections into federal law, within the first 100 days of his presidency, as well as other pro-LGBTQ issues including adoption, equality in health care, and trans-inclusive guidance for schools — which the Trump administration previously revoked.
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