By ADAM SNIDER
Anthony Foxx, the fast-rising young mayor of Charlotte, N.C., will fill one of the last remaining slots in President Barack Obama’s second-term Cabinet when the president taps him to replace Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, an administration official confirmed to POLITICO on Sunday.
Obama will announce Foxx’s nomination on Monday, a day before the mayor’s 42nd birthday, the official said. The news followed months of rumors that the mayor would win out over potential rivals including Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Debbie Hersman, chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board.
Foxx, the first Democrat elected to the Charlotte mayor’s office in 22 years, has long seemed a person on the way up. POLITICO named him one of “50 politicos to watch” in 2011, noting his successful effort to lure last year’s Democratic National Convention to the Queen City.
He spoke at the convention as well, proclaiming Charlotte as “the city where Americans have come together to move our country forward and make great things possible.”
“I was born to a single mom and raised by her and my grandparents,” Foxx told the convention crowd. “They taught me to take pride in hard work, to take responsibility for my actions, and to understand that education could expand my mind and transform my life. From West Charlotte High School to Davidson College, where I was the first black student body president; from NYU Law School to practicing law in the public and private sectors; from the Charlotte City Council to becoming Charlotte’s first Democratic mayor in 22 years to this stage tonight, I live by the values my family and what this community taught me.
“And you know what?” he said. “I have seen President Obama at work, and these are his values, too.”
The administration is returning the praise.
“As mayor of one of America’s most vibrant cities, Anthony Foxx knows firsthand that investing in world-class infrastructure is vital to creating good jobs and ensuring American businesses can grow and compete in the global economy,” the administration official told POLITICO.
Foxx’s transportation credentials include his push for expanding the city’s LYNX streetcar to UNC-Charlotte, creating the Charlotte Regional Intermodal Facility that transfers cargo between trucks and trains, and building a new runway at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport.
“These initiatives and investments are important pieces of a comprehensive plan to meet Charlotte’s transportation needs and maintain its position as a leader in high-tech industry and 21st century job creation,” the White House official said.
As an African-American, Foxx will also help address complaints about a perceived lack of diversity among Obama’s top advisers. Conan O’Brien joked about that topic Saturday night, telling the president during the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner that “your hair is so white, it could be a member of your Cabinet.”
The Congressional Black Caucus had written the president several times asking that he nominate a black person for one of the few remaining Cabinet posts.
But not everybody is a fan of Foxx.
For instance, the streetcar project — which broke ground in December — has caused fireworks between Foxx and his predecessor as mayor, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory. McCrory has chided the city’s plan to use property tax dollars to build the streetcar, sayings its financing scheme could threaten an extension to Charlotte’s much-lauded light rail line. The construction of that line was one of McCrory’s top accomplishments, as was passing and defending a transportation tax in the city.
In his annual State of the City address, Foxx said streetcar opponents like McCrory were using “smoke and mirrors” to argue against the project.
Foxx announced recently that he would not run for reelection, fueling recent speculation that he would be Obama’s pick to replace LaHood. Many other names have come and gone over the months as the industry rumor mill churned, including Villaraigosa, Hersman, Clyburn and DOT Deputy Secretary John Porcari.
The Huffington Post initially reported Sunday afternoon that Foxx’s nomination would be announced this week.
LaHood has served 4 ½ years as a Republican in a Democratic-dominated Cabinet, and has been under fire lately for air traffic controller furloughs and this department’s handling of the Boeing Dreamliner battery problems. But both those problems have reached at least a temporary resolution, after Congress last week voted to provide DOT with the budgetary flexibility to end air traffic controller furloughs and the Federal Aviation Administration set the stage for Boeing’s plane to return to the sky.
In other top-level appointments, Obama is close to naming Chicago businesswoman and Obama fundraiser Penny Pritzker as Commerce secretary this week, along with deputy national security adviser Mike Froman as U.S. trade representative, POLITICO’s Playbook reported Sunday.