by Keith Laing, The Hill Newspaper
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has ruled himself out as a possible replacement for Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
Villaraigosa had been widely speculated to be a strong contender to take over the Transportation secretary position for LaHood, who announced his resignation earlier this week.
But the Los Angeles mayor said in a statement released by his office late Friday evening that he would serve out the remainder of his term in his current office.
“I have said many times that I will be focused on my job as Mayor of Los Angeles until 11:59 and 59 seconds on June 30, 2013,” Villaraigosa said. “I am flattered and humbled by the speculation that has included my name for a possible Cabinet secretary position, but I am firmly committed to remaining in LA and finishing my term.”
Villaraigosa called being mayor of Los Angeles “an honor and a privilege” he has had “for the past seven and half years.”
“We have made tremendous progress even through the toughest of times,” he said. “We have doubled the number of successful schools, reduced crime rates to their lowest levels since the 1950s, lowered carbon emissions 28 percent below 1990 standards, and put us on track to double the size of our rail network.”
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.
The Los Angeles mayor, who also was chairman of the 2012 Democratic Party convention, frequently appeared at the capital with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) to push Republicans to vote in favor of approving the transportation bill last year.
Prior to LaHood’s announcement of his retirement, which was widely anticipated, Boxer said Villaraigosa would make a “terrific” transportation secretary.
“I think he’d be terrific at it,” Boxer told reporters of the mayor of the largest city in her home state prior to LaHood’s announcement.
“No one has asked my opinion, but I think he would make a very fine secretary of Transportation,” Boxer said of Villaraigosa.
Villaraigosa is the second prominently mentioned potential transportation secretary contender to remove himself from consideration this week, joining former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell.
White House officials have been mum about candidates in the running to replace LaHood. However, a long list of rumored candidates has been thought to be in contention for the DOT post has emerged.