Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood to Leave Obama Administration

Washington (Tribune Washington Bureau MCT) -

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, the last Republican left in President Barack Obama’s Cabinet, announced Tuesday he is stepping down.

The former seven-term congressman from Peoria, Ill., has led the department since 2009 and was not expected to stay on through a second term.

The White House did not immediately comment on possible replacements.

In a statement Tuesday, Obama, who worked with LaHood in Congress, praised the secretary’s bipartisanship.

“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. And Ray has never wavered in that belief,” the president said.

LaHood was brought into the Cabinet as a symbol of a new bipartisan era Obama planned in his first term. But the Republican’s views quickly seemed out of step with his party and did little to bolster the president’s standing with the opposition.

In his note to staffers, LaHood listed his top accomplishments during his tenure, including a program to curb texting while driving, fighting pilot fatigue and more than $50 billion on transportation projects, part of the president’s stimulus package, opposed by most in the GOP.

“We helped jump start the economy and put our fellow Americans back to work,” LaHood wrote. “Our achievements are significant.”

Obama has nominated another Republican to his second-term Cabinet. Former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, if approved by the Senate, will become secretary of Defense.