Transportation Secretary: Ray LaHood

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Anne Ryan / EPA

Ray LaHood

In plucking his Transportation Secretary from the ranks of the GOP, Barack Obama wasn't breaking tradition but extending it. In 2000, George W. Bush tapped Democrat Norman Mineta for the post—the lone cross-aisle appointment of his Administration. There's reason to believe LaHood — a veteran Illinois pol who counts Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, as a close friend — will play far more than a token role in the incoming Democratic regime. At Transportation, LaHood will shepherd the massive public works program Obama announced on Dec. 6 as the centerpiece of a plan to jumpstart the economy by creating millions of jobs. He's also a litmus test for Obama's post-partisan campaign pledges. LaHood, a downstate Republican, is the President-elect's first full Republican appointee — Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a Bush Administration holdover, is a registered Independent who has traditionally served Republican presidents — but has earned plaudits for his ability to work with Democrats. "Ray's appointment reflects that bipartisan spirit — a spirit we need to reclaim in this country to make progress for the American people," Obama said.

Fast Facts:

• LaHood has a wife, Kathy, and four children

• Graduated from Bradley University in 1971 with bachelor's degrees in education and sociology. Before entering politics in 1977 as an administrative assistant to Illinois Congressman Tom Railsback, LaHood taught junior high school social studies

• Served in the Illinois House of Representatives from 1982 to 1994

• Has represented Illinois' 18th district, which includes Peoria, since being swept into office during the GOP's congressional landslide in 1994

• LaHood's grandfather was a Lebanese immigrant. His family is Roman Catholic

• Presided over Bill Clinton's 1998 impeachment trial in the House of Representatives. LaHood drew positive reviews for his handling of the tricky task

• Spearheaded statewide initiatives to improve transportation and infrastructure, including shoring up local highways and airports

Quotes about:

• "The last place you need ideology is transportation. LaHood has a great reputation and track record of working across party lines. It's very encouraging."
— Roger Cohen, president of the Regional Airline Association in Washington, D.C., Bloomberg, Dec. 19, 2008

• "More than once the entire House stood up and applauded how he comported himself in the chair."
— Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Cal.), on LaHood's agile handling of the 1998 House impeachment trial of then President Bill Clinton, Bloomberg, Dec. 19, 2008

• "I can't point to any specific legislation he authored. He was a team player all the way through...It's going to be the temperament that Mr. LaHood brings."
— Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.), who called LaHood an "excellent" choice, on the skills he brings to the role, Wall Street Journal, Dec. 19, 2008

• "He has always fought for the best interests of our nation—recognizing that bipartisan compromises often provide the best solutions to the problems facing our country." — Sen. John McCain, praising LaHood's appointment and urging the Senate to quickly confirm him, MSNBC, Dec. 18, 2008

Quotes by:

• "We trash each other and end up making the institution look bad. That's why Congress's approval ratings are so low."
— on the pitfalls of Congressional squabbling, FOX News, Dec. 7, 2007

• "We have a task before us to rebuild America. As a nation, we need to continue to be the world leader in infrastructure development. We cannot stand by while our infrastructure ages and crumbles."
— during his introduction as Transportation Secretary-designate, Peoria Journal Star, Dec. 19, 2008

• "To get things done on Capitol Hill, one must work in a bipartisan manner."
Associated Press, Dec. 18, 2008

• "This idea that Rahm is a guy who can't get along with Republicans is just not true. The truth is in politics, you can count your friends on one or two hands, but he's been a true friend."
-on his relationship with incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Bloomberg, Nov, 6, 2008

• "I don't like being in the minority. It's not that much fun, and the prospects for the future don't look that good."
-on his planned retire from Congress after finishing the present term, Seattle Times, Oct. 16, 2007