Transportation observers unclear on LaHood's future

LaHood's office declined to comment Wednesday on his plans for Obama's second term. However, the former Illinois congressman told reporters in September that he owed it to the president to talk to him before he made a final decision.

"As somebody who's been in public service 35 years, I don't know if I've ever had a better job," LaHood said then. "This is a great job. I'll always be grateful to the president for giving me this opportunity, and I owe to him to sit down and talk after the election and see where it takes us."

Schank said he thinks LaHood will ultimately end up stepping down, but he said it was hard to say definitely.

"I think he'll probably leave," Schank said. "This is a pretty strong demand on your family."

Schank said it is uncommon for transportation secretaries to serve more than one term in a president's administration.

"Norm Mineta did it, but he was a transportation giant and this was short of the culmination of his career," he said.

Schank said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D) could be a possible contender to replace LaHood if the current transportation secretary steps down. Villaraigosa was a vocal advocate of the $105-billion transportation bill that was passed by Congress earlier this year, and he is considered a rising star in Democratic politics.

But he said Obama might eschew nominating another politician, as recent transportation secretaries have been.

"I wonder if in his second term, [Obama] might put someone in who is a trusted adviser on transportation rather than someone who fills a particular niche. A technocrat or bureaucrat rather than someone of a particular ethnic group or the minority party," Schank said.
 
LaHood was a Republican Illinois congressman for 14 years before he was appointed by Obama in 2009.