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Deborah Hersman for Transportation secretary? She ducks comment.

Deborah Hersman, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, is a top candidate for the cabinet post, reports say. But she wouldn't comment directly at a Monitor breakfast Wednesday.

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Deborah Hersman, Chair of the National Transportation Safety Board speaks at the Monitor Breakfast on Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor

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Deborah Hersman, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), ducked requests to comment Wednesday on published reports that she is President Obama’s leading candidate to replace Ray LaHood as Transportation secretary.

Citing sources familiar with the matter, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that Ms. Hersman “is a leading candidate” for the Transportation post. The Transportation Department has roughly 57,000 workers and a fiscal 2012 budget of more than $72 billion. Her current post involves running an influential but much smaller operation. In a speech last fall, Hersman described the NTSB as “400 people you may never know.” The agency investigates transportation accidents and makes safety recommendations.

Hersman was appointed to the NTSB in 2004 by President Bush. Mr. Obama nominated her as NTSB chairman in 2009 and then nominated her for a second, two-year term as chairman in 2011.

 When asked about the speculation at a Monitor-hosted breakfast for reporters on Wednesday, Hersman said, “I feel very privileged to have the job that I have now. And in fact, that is the only job that I have right now. So I am going to be focused on that.”
 
Obama has been criticized for naming men to the top posts in his second-term cabinet. Nominees have included Chuck Hagel for Defense secretary, Jacob Lew for Treasury secretary, John Kerry for secretary of State, and Denis McDonough for White House chief of staff. On Wednesday afternoon, the president is expected to name business executive Sally Jewell to lead the Interior Department.

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