- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 29, 2013

President Obama is losing another trusted member of his Cabinet with the announcement Tuesday that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is leaving the administration.

Mr. LaHood, 67, the last Republican still serving in Mr. Obama’s Cabinet, said he will stay on until a successor is confirmed by the Senate. The president has not yet announced a nominee.

“As I look back on the past four years, I am proud of what we have accomplished together in so many important areas,” Mr. LaHood said in a statement to his department. “This is the best job I’ve ever had. I am grateful to President Obama for giving me such an extraordinary opportunity.”

Before taking the job four years ago, Mr. LaHood served in the U.S. House as a moderate GOP lawmaker from Mr. Obama’s home state of Illinois. Among those who have been mentioned as possible replacements for the Cabinet post are Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and Peter M. Rogoff, head of the Federal Transit Administration.

Mr. Obama thanked Mr. LaHood for his service and his friendship.

“Years ago, we were drawn together by a shared belief that those of us in public service owe an allegiance not to party or faction, but to the people we were elected to represent,” Mr. Obama said. “And Ray has never wavered in that belief. As secretary of transportation, he has fought to create jobs and grow our economy by rebuilding our roads, bridges and transit systems.”

Mr. LaHood is the latest in a series of resignations from the Cabinet as the president begins his second term. Among those leaving are Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis, Interior Secretary Kenneth L. Salazar and EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. Energy Secretary Steven Chu last week denied a report that he is leaving soon.

The president has come under criticism from liberals for appointing white males to the vacancies on his team. Mr. Obama has said he will have a diverse team of advisers by the time his second-term Cabinet is completed. The only other Republican in Mr. Obama’s first-term Cabinet was Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who stepped aside and was replaced by Mr. Panetta.

Mr. Panetta’s replacement, now seeking Senate confirmation, is another Republican, former Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.

Mr. LaHood may be best known for his campaign against distracted driving as new technologies took hold.

At the start of the new administration, he spearheaded efforts to stimulate the economy through transportation construction projects and promoted the administration’s vision of a nation connected by high-speed trains. But the Republican gains in the 2010 midterms have complicated the administration’s plans and slowed funding.

Mr. LaHood was also the administration’s chief advocate for greater spending to repair and improve the nation’s aging transportation network.

• This article was based in part on wire service reports.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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