President-elect Joe Biden has selected Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge as his secretary for housing and urban development and former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to repeat that role in his administration, according to four people familiar with the decisions.
Fudge, a past chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, has just been elected to a seventh term representing a black-majority district that includes parts of Cleveland and Akron. Vilsack was head of the US Department of Agriculture for eight years during the Obama administration and served two terms as governor of Iowa.
Their intended nominations were confirmed to The Associated Press on Tuesday by four people familiar with one or both of the decisions and speaking on condition of anonymity so as not to prevent the president-elect from being announced.
When news agencies reported her selection as HUD secretary, Fudge said on Capitol Hill it was “an honor and a privilege” to be asked to join Biden’s cabinet, even though she did not confirm she had been selected.
“It’s something in probably my wildest dreams that I would never have thought of. If I can help this President in any way, I will be more than happy to do so, ”she said on Tuesday evening.
A longtime member of the House Agriculture Committee and a passionate food brand advocate, Fudge was originally discussed as Secretary of Agriculture. South Carolina MP Jim Clyburn, House Democrat No. 3, who gave Biden a major sign of support in the primaries, had strongly backed them, saying, “It’s one thing to grow food, but it’s another to distribute it , and no one would do better at it than Marcia Fudge. “
It also had strong support from progressive groups touting their support for food aid and worker protection in meat packers.
However, her name later became known for HUD when Biden’s team focused on other candidates for USDA, including Vilsack and former North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp.
Biden’s relationship with Vilsack goes back decades. He was an early supporter of Biden’s first presidential campaign in 1988 while Vilsack was Mayor of Mount Pleasant, Iowa. He endorsed Biden a year before the 2020 election and worked tirelessly for him in Iowa, the nation’s first caucus state. Biden took over aspects of Vilsack’s rural agenda as the Democrats seek to make up the ground they lost to Republicans in rural areas over the past decade.
After he headed the huge department under Obama for eight years and sat at the table with Biden, Vilsack’s expertise is little mystery. Their 34-year friendship and longstanding professional relationship make the choice one that involves little risk.
Vilsack entered politics largely over tragedy when the Mayor of Mount Pleasant was shot dead at a city council meeting in 1986. Vilsack, then a young lawyer, had grown up in Pittsburgh and moved to Iowa with his wife, Christie, hometown. He was enlisted to serve as mayor and then served two terms in the Iowa Senate before becoming the first Democrat to win the governorship in 30 years.
After two terms, Vilsack ran a 10-week campaign for the 2008 Democratic nomination before retiring and throwing his support to Hillary Clinton despite Biden being on the field. Vilsack was a finalist for Clinton’s runners that year.
Biden said he wanted a diverse cabinet, and some black leaders have said he needs to do more to make that happen. Biden announced earlier Tuesday that he had elected retired Army General Lloyd Austin as the nation’s first black Secretary of Defense.
Clyburn aggressively pushed Fudge into USDA but appeared to be indicating earlier Tuesday that she may be considered for another position.
“Marcia Fudge is a great candidate. I hired her for the Department of Agriculture, ”Clyburn said on CNN. “I don’t know if she’ll end up there, but I’m sure Marcia Fudge is the kind of person who should be in this cabinet and I will continue to stand up for her.”
She earned her bachelor’s degree in business from Ohio State University and a law degree from the Cleveland-Marshall School of Law at Cleveland State University.
Politico first reported on Fudge’s selection, while Axios Vilsack reported as Minister of Agriculture.