WASHINGTON — Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, the only Republican still in President Barack Obama’s first-term Cabinet, said today he plans to leave the administration.
His move continues an exodus that will give Obama’s team a new look in his second term.
The 67-year-old LaHood, a former congressman from Illinois, pushed for greater safety on the highways and in the air.
He led the Transportation Department throughout Obama’s first term and helped steer a campaign to curb distracted driving, promote high-speed rail and repair roads and bridges. Under his watch, the department demanded tougher fuel efficiency requirements for automakers and took steps to address airline pilot fatigue.
Obama thanked LaHood in a statement, saying they 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.”
LaHood plans to remain at the department until his successor is confirmed by the Senate, which he expected in about two months.
The only other Republican who was in Obama’s first-term Cabinet was Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who stepped aside and was replaced by Democrat Leon Panetta earlier.
LaHood said he would not run for public office in Illinois and said he did not have any specific plans.