Obama’s cabinet: Minnesota politicians’ prospects

U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar has said ‘no’ to speculation about appointment.
November 06, 2008

In presidential politics, there is no rest for the weary; just two days after winning the presidential election, speculation has swirled around possible appointments to Barack Obama’s cabinet and staff.
Obama has already named Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel his White House Chief of Staff.
Politico is reporting Robert Gibbs, an aide in the Obama campaign, will be the new president’s press secretary , a choice that leaves out campaign press secretary and University of Minnesota alumnus Bill Burton .
The experience and support of some Minnesota politicians make them leading candidates for some positions, from Cabinet-level down.
Some have brought up Minnesota connections, ranging from U.S. Reps. Collin Peterson and Jim Oberstar to Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak .
University political science professor Kathryn Pearson said the changing of political parties in the White House and the worsening economy will force Obama to appoint cabinet-level positions quickly before Inauguration Day on Jan. 20.
“I think that Obama will want to move as quickly as possible,” she said.
The most important posts, including Secretary of State and Secretary of Treasury , will come soon, Pearson said.
Obama’s not just responsible for appointing a cabinet, either, said Bill Flanigan , political science emeritus professor emeritus. He’s also responsible for appointing his White House staff and a variety of bureaucratic staff members.
Oberstar, who represents Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District, said Thursday he would be unlikely to accept a cabinet position as Secretary of Transportation, according to various news reports, though Pearson said his experience makes him a good candidate.
Oberstar has been in Congress since 1975, and is currently chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
Flanigan said Oberstar is best fit to remain in Congress.
“His experience is all in the Legislature,” he said. “He’s powerful there. It’d be odd for someone like him to give up a house seat.”
Mark Brownell , chief of staff for Peterson, said Peterson is not looking for an administrative appointment either.
“He has said publically he has absolutely no interest in the Secretary of Agriculture position,” he said.
Peterson has been in the U.S. House since 1990 and is currently the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.
Meanwhile, Rybak’s name has been mentioned for a possible federal appointment because of his staunch support for Obama’s campaign.
But spokesman Jeremy Hanson said Rybak would use his relationship with Obama to support causes he already supports in Minnesota.
“He is excited to have a new job title as ‘Mayor’ in Barack Obama’s America,” Hanson said. “Mayor Rybak is a Minnesotan through and through and fully intends to be an active member of the Obama administration as the mayor of Minneapolis.”
Should an appointment come to a Minnesota representative, Pearson said a special election would be required to fill the position.
Since Rybak is up for re-election next November, Minneapolis would only conduct a special election if he accepted an administration post before March 1, according to Minneapolis laws.
If he accepts an appointment after that date, the president of the City Council, Barb Johnson, would take over his post until the election.

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