All seven Democrats in the 10-member Minnesota congressional delegation have quietly signed a letter to President Obama urging him to consider former U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar as his next Transportation Secretary.
The letter, dated Feb. 8, is part of a behind-the-scenes effort to promote the Minnesota Democrat, who earned the moniker “Mr. Transportation” during his 18 terms in Congress, the last four of them as chairman of the House Transportation Committee.
Oberstar, in an interview with the Star Tribune after the announced resignation of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, said “if the administration is interested, and asks me, I will gladly serve.”
But he also said he didn’t plan to mount a campaign for the job.
Washington parlor chatter does not favor Oberstar, despite his legendary prowess at directing dollars for bike trails, rails, and other transportation projects in Minnesota. Some note that he would add nothing to the race or gender diversity of the Obama cabinet. He also had a well-publicized spat with the administration over transportation spending during his final years in Congress.
Oberstar himself speculated that Debbie Hersman, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, and former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm are likely the top candidates for the job.
All the same, his fellow Minnesota DFLers are advancing his name to the White House, calling him a “preeminent leader” with “unmatched expertise” in transportation policy.
The letter is signed by Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, along with Reps. Collin Peterson, Betty McCollum, Keith Ellison, Tim Walz and Rick Nolan, who was just elected to the northern Minnesota district Oberstar represented for 36 years.
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The DFLer said he was encouraged to run.