Now that the election’s over, it’s time to find something to speculate about besides vote percentages and electoral swing states. So what better than Minnesotans who may be tagged for high-ranking posts in President Obama’s administration?
The two most obvious are U.S. Reps. Jim Oberstar and Colin Peterson as secretary of transportation and secretary of agriculture, respectively. Each has served 20-plus years in the House and chair powerful committees. The idea of being a part of history in Obama’s administration would be an attractive move for each. It’s also a move that would give Obama some quick capital with members of Congress.
Other names that are likely to be involved in Obama’s presidency include the Minnesotans who were deeply involved in the Obama campaign. They are Paul Tewes and Steve Hildebrand, who are credited with building and managing Obama’s massive and impressive field-organizing operation. Another is Bill Burton, Obama’s national press secretary and a University of Minnesota graduate. He’s likely to have a major spokesperson role in the new administration. He previously worked for former Rep. Bill Luther.
One of the most significant Minnesota names Obama may be considering is Denis McDonough. McDonough, from Stillwater, is Obama’s point person on foreign policy. McDonough previously worked for the House Foreign Affairs Committee under Lee Hamilton and was an adviser to former Majority Leader Tom Daschle. He was profiled in the New York Times earlier this year.
Others who could be tapped because of their politics, expertise and experience include:
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, who was an early supporter of Obama and led the “Draft Obama” effort in Minnesota. Rybak would be a logical candidate for any significant post in Housing and Urban Development or as an administrator with the Environmental Protection Agency.
Another strong Obama supporter was Rep. Betty McCollum, who is in a safe Democratic House seat. McCollum could be interested in expanding her work as an undersecretary of education or in a position involving international development and human rights, subjects she has researched on behalf of the House.
Minnesota’s major transit booster and expert, Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, could be a candidate for any high-ranking Federal Transit Administration post.
Burnsville Mayor Elizabeth Kautz, who has been the head of the national League of Cities, would be a possible pick for an undersecretary post with the department of Housing and Urban Development.
Despite supporting John McCain, former U.S. Rep. Tim Penny could be tapped if Obama needs expertise on budget issues or entitlement programs. He could also be long-shot candidate for director of the Office of Management and Budget.
There are also some possible candidates for ambassador positions or other prominent appointments that will emerge in the coming weeks. They often go to early supporters, major fundraisers and party loyalists. In Minnesota, think: Sam and Sylvia Kaplan, state Sens. Dick Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, and Terri Bonoff, DFL-Plymouth, who each raised at least $50,000 for Obama. Another name on the list of bundlers is Chris Pohlad, grandson of Twins owner Carl Pohlad.
We’ll soon see more names from the North Star state emerging as Obama begins to put together his administration.