President-elect Joe Biden announced Pete Buttigieg on Tuesday as his nominee to lead the U.S. Transportation Department, making him the first of Biden’s Democratic rivals for the presidency to land a role in his Cabinet.
The appointment of Buttigieg, 38, is another step in a meteoric political rise for the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who showed surprising strength as a presidential candidate. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, he would run a sprawling federal agency that oversees the nation’s airlines, highways and transit systems.
Buttigieg would also make history as the first openly LGBTQ Cabinet secretary to be approved by the Senate.
“I am nominating him for Secretary of Transportation because this position stands at the nexus of so many of the interlocking challenges and opportunities ahead of us,” Biden said in a statement. “Jobs, infrastructure, equity, and climate all come together at the DOT, the site of some of our most ambitious plans to build back better.”
Buttigieg had been rumored for several different spots in Biden’s administration. He was surprisingly competitive during the Democratic Party presidential race, winning the first-in-the-nation caucuses in Iowa, showing formidable fundraising might and enjoying massive popularity on social media.
Once Biden took control of the race after winning the South Carolina primary in February, Buttigieg quickly dropped out and endorsed him, helping Biden consolidate the support of the moderate, establishment wing of the party. He became a valued Biden supporter on television in the election’s final weeks.
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest advocacy group for the LGBTQ community, praised the nomination, saying Buttigieg “was open and honest” about his identity and gave a voice to the community.
“His voice as a champion for the LGBTQ community in the Cabinet room will help President-elect Biden build back our nation better, stronger and more equal than before,” Alphonso David, the group’s president, said in a statement.
Despite being viewed as a rising star within the party, Buttigieg’s potential nomination to a Cabinet post has been opposed by a number of progressive groups and Black leaders who have criticized his record on civil right