Report: Obama leaning toward Hersman for transportation chief

President Obama is leaning toward National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman (NTSB) Deborah Hersman as his pick to run the Department of Transportation, according to a report.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Hersman has now become the favorite to replace outgoing Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

The development follows the removal of another presumed front-runner for the DOT post, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D), from consideration as a replacement for LaHood.

Villaraigosa said in a statement released late Friday that he would serve out the remainder of his term as LA mayor, presumably forestalling an appointment to helm the transportation department. 

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Hersman, a Democrat, was appointed to the NTSB by former President George W. Bush in 2004. She was reappointed to the Senate-confirmed position in 2011 by Obama.

Hersman has said publicly that she is not interested in the Transportation secretary job, saying she is focused on her current position. Her agency is conducting a high-profile investigation of the Boeing 787 "Dreamliner" airplane after battery issues led to the airplane being grounded. 

Despite her disavowals, however, Hersman might be attractive to Obama as a Transportation secretary pick because he's come under fire for lacking gender diversity in his first round of Cabinet picks for his second term.

Obama's appointments for the secretaries of State, Defense and Treasury and the head of the CIA were all men. The president has said the diversity of his Cabinet should not be judged until all his appointments are made.

Neither the White House nor the Department of Transportation responded immediately to requests for comment on the Wall Street Journal report.

A spokeswoman for the NTSB, Kelly Nantel, said Monday in response to the report that "Chairman Hersman’s full attention is focused on the important work of running the NTSB." 

Hersman sat down for a lengthy interview with The Hill in 2011. The Transportation Report's resulting profile of her can be read here

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