Pete Buttigieg Would Be First Openly Gay Cabinet Secretary

President-elect Joe Biden announced on Wednesday that the former presidential candidate and South Bend, Indiana, mayor was his choice to run the Department of Transportation

Pete Buttigieg
Pete Buttigieg. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty

Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who rose to prominence during his history-making 2020 bid for president, is Joe Biden's nominee for transportation secretary, the president-elect announced on Tuesday.

Buttigieg, 38, is a veteran of the U.S. Navy who came out as gay in 2015. If confirmed, he would be the first openly LGBTQ Cabinet secretary in American history.

(Richard Grenell, who was President Donald Trump's acting director of national intelligence for several months earlier this year, was the first openly gay person to hold a Cabinet-level post — though Grenell was not nominated to that position full time.)

In announcing his choice, Biden said in a statement that his former rival for the Democratic presidential nomination "is a leader, a patriot and a problem-solver."

Biden's statement continued: "I am nominating him for Secretary of Transportation because he's equipped to take on the challenges at the intersection of jobs, infrastructure, equity, and climate."

"This is a moment of tremendous opportunity—to create jobs, meet the climate challenge, and enhance equity for all," Buttigieg wrote on Twitter Tuesday night, reacting to his nomination. "I'm honored that the President-Elect has asked me to serve our nation as Secretary of Transportation."

Buttigieg's husband, Chasten, tweeted that he was "beyond proud" of Buttigieg, who spoke about the nomination in Delaware later Wednesday after a formal introduction from Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

"As he heads to the stage today I’ll also be thinking of the countless path-paving and history-making civil servants who were denied their chance," Chasten wrote on Twitter on Wednesday morning.

Buttigieg had brief breakout success during the Democratic primaries earlier this year — winning the Iowa caucuses by a razor-thin margin, the first openly gay person to do so, and coming in second in the New Hampshire primary.

“I certainly still have that sense of how improbable this all is,” Buttigieg told PEOPLE in Iowa in January. “Again, that’s part of the point. I think, in an odd way, that’s also part of why we’re succeeding.”

He faded in later contests, however, and dropped out of the race in March. Afterward, he quickly threw his support behind Biden, often stumping for the former vice president in appearances across America and in cable news interviews.

As transportation secretary, Buttigieg would helm an agency that oversees railroads, mass transit, pipeline and an airline industry struck hard by the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.

Though he hasn't previously run a department of that magnitude, during his run for president Buttigieg unveiled a $1 trillion infrastructure plan to include a $150 billion investment in public transportation and improvements to the national rail network. He also touted his transportation policies while mayor of South Bend, a city of some 100,000 people.

Transportation will likely be a pet project for Biden, who used an Amtrak train as his primary mode of transport during his political career, traveling via rail car to get from Washington, D.C., to his home in Delaware.

According to Axios, Biden is considering traveling by train to his January inauguration.

President-elect Joe Biden
President-elect Joe Biden. Patrick Semansky/AP/Shutterstock

While Biden has selected a host of longtime aides and career experts to work in his administration (frustrating those who say he hews to an insider mentality), many of his Cabinet or Cabinet-level picks have also made history for being the firsts in their field.

His choice for treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, would be the first woman to hold that position, while Xavier Becerra, the nominee for health and human services secretary, would be the first Latino to oversee the department.

Alejandro Mayorkas, Biden's choice for secretary of homeland security, would be another first if confirmed: the first Latino to lead the department at the center of immigration policy.

Biden's choice of retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin would make him the first Black person to run the Pentagon, though that nomination is somewhat controversial given that defense secretaries are intended to be distanced from recent military service.

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