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President-elect Joe Biden will nominate Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, to lead the Department of Transportation, adding a young-generation voice to his team, said a person familiar with Biden’s deliberations.
Buttigieg, 38, fought a fierce battle for the Democratic nomination but bowed out and endorsed Biden in his bid for the presidency. The two men bonded during the general election campaign and the president-elect made it clear that he wanted to find a place for the former mayor in his administration.
If he is confirmed by the Senate, Buttigieg would become the first openly gay person to serve as a Cabinet secretary, shattering a barrier and contributing to Biden’s promise to make his administration “look like America.” Under President Donald Trump, Richard Grenell, who is also openly gay, served as acting director of National Intelligence, a Cabinet-level post. But he did not face Senate confirmation as the acting leader.
A Navy veteran, Buttigieg could have led the Department of Veterans Affairs. But Biden decided instead to put him in charge of transportation, which is likely to become a key part of the administration’s efforts to combat climate change with aggressive actions on emissions. Reuters earlier reported Biden’s choice of Buttigieg.
In his presidential bid, Buttigieg proved himself to be among the Democratic Party’s most skilled communicators, transforming himself from a small-town mayor to a top-polling presidential candidate.
While Biden, like many others in the 2020 Democratic presidential field, was at first annoyed by Buttigieg’s presidential ambitions — and before the New Hampshire primary belittled his mayoral experience in revitalizing South Bend’s sidewalks — the two grew closer in their shared effort to hold back the party’s more liberal contenders.
As a candidate, Buttigieg consistently argued for the government to take strong steps to fight global warming. And his experience as the leader of a local community provides him experience with the infrastructure needs of cities and counties, another key priority for Biden.
And when Buttigieg ended his campaign after registering next to no support from Black voters in the South Carolina primary, the Biden campaign gave him his own endorsement event — a plum not afforded to fellow rivals like Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who threw their support to Biden at a campaign rally hours later.