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Obama considering Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx for Cabinet job

  • The Charlotte Observer
  • Published Thursday, March 21, 2013, at 6:38 a.m.
  • Updated Monday, April 29, 2013, at 2:45 p.m.

— President Barack Obama is considering Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx for secretary of transportation, according to two people familiar with the matter, Bloomberg News reported Wednesday.

Foxx declined to comment to the Observer before Wednesday’s City Council budget meeting. Foxx, 41, has long been rumored for a Cabinet position in Obama’s second term, and the mayor has said previously he would consider a move to Washington, D.C.

The mayor has not yet announced he is running for a third term in November.

Foxx doesn’t have an extensive transportation background, though he is passionate about building the city’s transit system, including a controversial streetcar through central Charlotte. He is currently an attorney for Charlotte hybrid bus maker DesignLine.

Foxx was invited to Obama’s White House several times in 2009 and 2010. His relationship with the president was considered a helpful factor in the city landing last September’s Democratic National Convention.

Obama also is considering Deborah Hersman, the head of the National Transportation Safety Board, for the position, according to one of the sources, both of whom asked for anonymity because the deliberations haven’t been made public, Bloomberg reported. The president is also considering internal DOT staff members, according to Bloomberg.

Hersman, a Democrat who has been with the safety board since 2009, has led several high-profile investigations, including the crash of a Colgan Air regional airplane in Buffalo in 2009.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced in January that he would leave the job once a successor is confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

LaHood, who had been a Republican congressman from Illinois, had served on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

LaHood’s department has been favorable to the city, awarding Charlotte a $25 million starter grant for a streetcar project. In October, the DOT also awarded the city a grant worth more than $500 million to extend the light-rail line to University City. The DOT has also awarded the state of N.C. millions to improve the rail corridor between Charlotte and Raleigh as part of Obama’s high-speed rail initiative.

Amy Brundage, a White House spokeswoman, declined to comment to Bloomberg.

Foxx was first elected as mayor in 2009. He was re-elected in November 2011 with nearly 70 percent of the vote.

Foxx was co-chairman of the DNC host committee, which struggled to raise money under fundraising rules set by the White House that banned corporate cash contributions.

The committee came short in its fundraising efforts for the DNC. By last October, it had raised $24.1 million of the original $36.6 million goal.

Duke Energy had given the committee a $10 million line of credit for the convention. Duke confirmed earlier this month that it won’t be repay that money and that shareholders will have to cover $6 million of that cost.

No Democrat is expected to challenge Foxx in a primary, and no Republicans have yet come forward to run against the incumbent mayor. But if Foxx accepted a job in Washington, it’s likely a number of Democrats and Republicans would seek the post.

The transportation secretary is responsible for a wide range of areas, including transit, highway construction and railroads, including high-speed rail.

The mayor is also interested in how large highway projects can coexist with surrounding neighborhoods. He worked on a recent Urban Land Institute study of how to make Independence Boulevard friendlier to nearby areas.

Foxx, however, has not taken a public position on two proposed toll roads for the Charlotte area: the Monroe Connector/Bypass and the Garden Parkway in Gaston County. The toll roads have been touted as important transportation links, but environmentalists have criticized them as being unnecessary and a likely cause of sprawl.

As Obama forms his second-term Cabinet, he has open slots remaining at the departments of transportation and commerce, the office of U.S. Trade Representative and the Small Business Administration, according to Bloomberg.

Foxx is the second Charlotte Democrat said to be under consideration for a Washington post.

U.S. Rep. Mel Watt is being considered to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

Bloomberg News contributed.

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