Two Top Candidates Decline Interest in Succeeding LaHood

LA Mayor Villaraigosa (far right) & former PA Governor Ed Rendell (2nd at right). Image – Transportation Nation

Two top candidates to succeed USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood apparently are taking themselves out of the running.

Los Angeles Mayor Anthony Villaraigosa, a candidate favored by many, issued a statement Friday evening that ruled out serving at USDOT. Villaraigosa committed to serving out the remaining handful of months of his term as Mayor.

The Hill’s Keith Laing reports:

“Villaraigosa was thought to be a contender to take over the transportation secretary position because he played a prominent role in pushing Congress to approve a $105 billion transportation bill last year in his role as then-president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Transportation observers also thought Villaraigosa, who is Hispanic, might have been an attractive DOT candidate because Obama has come under fire for a lack of diversity in his initial second term appointments. Obama’s picks for secretary of State, Defense, Treasury and CIA director have all been white men, which has been frequently pointed out by Republicans in Congress.”

Another rumored candidate, former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, didn’t categorically take himself out of contention but said Obama wouldn’t pick him. Rendell, founder and co-chair of Building America’s Future, wants to continue focusing on the lack of transportation funding “from the outside.” Rendell also said his outspoken nature could hurt his chances of succeeding LaHood.

Meanwhile, transportation unions are urging Obama to “appoint a staunch defender of federal road and transit funding.” The implication is LaHood could have done more, particularly in the area of transit funding.  However, it was President Obama who early in his first term ruled out a gas tax increase, the only realistic way to significantly increase federal funding for transit.