Reports: ATA’s Graves a top candidate to replace Mineta

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Bill Graves, president and chief executive officer of the American Trucking Associations, is a top candidate to replace Norman Mineta as U.S. transportation secretary, several news services have reported.

According to Reuters, The Washington Post and other media sources, government and industry sources say Graves is being seriously considered for the Cabinet post in President Bush’s administration. Graves — a former Kansas governor who became ATA’s chief executive in 2003 — is a strong candidate, a government source told Reuters.

“We’ve seen the reports, and we’re just not commenting on speculation,” Tiffany Wlazlowski, ATA spokeswoman, told the Lawrence World-Journal.

Tom Whitaker, executive director of the Kansas Motor Carriers Association, told the World-Journal he has noticed ATA’s turnaround since Graves took the helm. The improvements have been so significant that Whitaker said he’d rather not see Graves leave his current post, according to the newspaper. “Frankly, we’d rather him stay and continue what he’s done here at the association,” he told the World-Journal.

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., has been told that Graves intends to stay with ATA, a spokeswoman told the Wichita Eagle. “While Senator Roberts has the highest regard for Governor Graves and would be proud to see a Kansan in the Cabinet, he understands that the governor will stick with his commitment to” the trucking association, Roberts spokeswoman Sarah Little told the Eagle.

Mineta, who announced his resignation in June, was the longest-serving transportation secretary and the only Democrat in Bush’s Cabinet. Other candidates mentioned for Mineta’s job, according to the Eagle, include Mineta’s top assistant, Maria Cino; Marion Blakey, current head of the Federal Aviation Administration; current Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao; current Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; and former congressman and University of Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne. Bush could announce a nominee as early as this week, the Eagle reported.