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Pete Buttigieg set to make history as Joe Biden names former rival as transportation secretary

Nick Duffy December 15, 2020
Former Mayor of South Bend, Indiana Pete Buttigieg

Former Mayor of South Bend, Indiana Pete Buttigieg (DNCC via Getty Images)

Pete Buttigieg has been chosen as Joe Biden’s transportation secretary, becoming the first out LGBT+ person in US history to hold a full-time cabinet post.

The gay former Iraq war veteran, South Bend mayor and presidential hopeful has been picked by his one-time rival to lead the Department of Transportation, Reuters and CNN report.

The 38-year-old will become the first out LGBT+ person to hold a full-time cabinet post, though controversial gay Trump official Richard Grenell temporarily filled the cabinet role of acting director of national intelligence for three months while a successor was confirmed.

The role puts Buttigieg in charge of the department’s $72bn budget and 58,000-strong workforce, overseeing the country’s transport infrastructure.

Pete Buttigieg appointment is a ‘historic milestone’

Buttigieg said: “This is a moment of tremendous opportunity – to create jobs, meet the climate challenge, and enhance equity for all.

“I’m honoured that the President-elect has asked me to serve our nation as Secretary of Transportation.”

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

“I am nominating him for Secretary of Transportation because this position stands at the nexus of so many of the interlocking challenges and opportunities ahead of us. Jobs, infrastructure, equity, and climate all come together at the DOT, the site of some of our most ambitious plans to build back better.

“I trust Mayor Pete to lead this work with focus, decency, and a bold vision — he will bring people together to get big things done.”

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who also crossed swords with Buttigieg during the Democratic primaries, added: “Mayor Pete Buttigieg is an outstanding choice to help spearhead this work.

“An innovative problem solver and trailblazing public servant, Mayor Pete is deeply committed to bringing people together and upgrading our transportation system in a way that serves Americans of all backgrounds and communities of every size—urban and rural—across our country.”

LGBT+ campaigners have celebrated the milestone.

Pete Buttigieg implores LGBT youth to 'vote like your life depends on it'
Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Human Rights Campaign president Alphonso David said: “President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are 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. 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.

“This is a historic moment for our community, though not the end of our advocacy. We have and 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.”

Annise Parker of LGBTQ Victory Institute said: “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.

“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.

“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.”

Sarah Kate Ellis of GLAAD added: “Pete’s 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. Congratulations to Pete and his husband Chasten on their groundbreaking new roles.”

Former presidential hopeful was widely tipped for a cabinet role

As a Democratic rising star and stalwart Biden ally, Pete Buttigieg was hotly tipped for a cabinet role.

Ahead of November’s election, Buttigieg earned favour with the Biden camp with his strong media performances championing the Democratic cause, earning a reputation as ‘Slayer Pete’ for his no-nonsense appearances on Fox News.

Pete Buttigieg has earned a reputation for his Fox News appearances
Pete Buttigieg has earned a reputation for his Fox News appearances. (Fox News)

However, as Biden’s raft of initial appointments prioritised national policy experience, questions lingered over what post the former small-town mayor would be suited for.

Buttigieg was said to favour the plum post of UN ambassador, but was passed over for the role in favour of long-serving diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield. He was likewise passed over for roles with a wider policy remit, such as Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs.

Biden publicly promised some form of role to Buttigieg back in March, explaining: “I did speak to Pete Buttigieg a couple of days ago to encourage him to stay engaged because he has enormous talent.

“I indicated to him that if I become the nominee, I’d come and ask him to be part of the administration, to be engaged in moving things forward.”

More: joe biden, Pete Buttigieg, Transportation secretary

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