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Political Notebook

Ray LaHood announces Cabinet departure

Ray LaHood is the only Republican in the Cabinet.

Reuters/File

Ray LaHood is the only Republican in the Cabinet.

WASHINGTON — Ray ­LaHood, the Illinois Republican who turned distracted driving into a national crusade while serving a Democratic president, will step down after four years as President Obama’s transportation secretary.

LaHood is the only Republican in the Cabinet, a mantle that will be carried by Chuck Hagel, a former senator of ­Nebraska, if he wins Senate confirmation as secretary of defense.

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LaHood’s relentless campaign against distracted driving, his safety-first mantra, and his determination to visit every state in the union gave the Peoria native a higher profile than several predecessors in the role, traditionally played out in the shadow of more glamorous Cabinet jobs.

LaHood made the announcement in a statement Tuesday: ‘‘I have let President Obama know that I will not serve a second term as Secretary of the US Department of Transportation. It has been an honor and a privilege to lead the Department, and I am grateful to President Obama for giving me such an extraordinary opportunity.’’

There was no immediate word from the White House on who would replace him, but the rumor mill was rife with suggestions, including Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa of Los Angeles, who made a name for himself by rebuilding that city’s transit system; Ed Rendell, a former Pennsylvania governor; and the National Transportation Safety Board chairwoman, Deborah A.P. Hersman.

Clinton ‘not inclined’ to run in 2016, but leaves door open

WASHINGTON — Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday that she is ‘‘not inclined’’ to run for president in 2016 but left the door open for what is widely considered her likely return to politics after she steps down as secretary of state.

‘‘I'm not thinking about anything like that right now,’’ Clinton smilingly told a questioner. ‘‘I am looking forward to finishing up my tenure as secretary of state and then catching up on about 20 years of sleep deprivation.’’

Clinton, who steps down Friday as one of the best-known secretaries of state, is also among the world’s most admired women and the object of intense speculation about her future.

At the Newseum in Washington, in a wide-ranging online question-and-answer session with students from around the world, Clinton said she will write a memoir and work on causes dear to her.

Ex-senators Nunn, Warner set to speak for Hagel at hearing

WASHINGTON — Two former chairmen of the Senate Armed Services Committee are set to introduce Chuck Hagel at his confirmation hearing for defense secretary.

Officials close to the confirmation process say Sam Nunn, a former Democratic senator of Georgia, and John Warner, a former Republican senator of Virginia, will make the presentation before the committee on Thursday.

Nunn served in the Senate from 1972 to 1997; Warner served from 1979 to 2009.

President Obama has tapped Hagel, a former two-term Republican senator from Nebraska, to succeed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

Meanwhile, Hagel has told Pentagon officials that he plans to divest some of his financial holdings and resign from several corporate boards and public interest groups to avoid potential conflicts of interest if he wins Senate confirmation.

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