WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — President-elect Joe Biden has selected former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to reprise that role in his administration, according to four people familiar with the decisions.
Vilsack spent eight years as head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture during the Obama administration and served two terms as Iowa governor.
His nomination was confirmed to The Associated Press on Tuesday by four people familiar with the decision who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid preempting the president-elect’s announcement.
Biden’s team focused on other candidates for USDA, including Vilsack and former North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp.
Biden’s relationship with Vilsack goes back decades. He was an early supporter of Biden’s first campaign for president in 1988 while Vilsack was the mayor of Mount Pleasant, Iowa. He endorsed Biden a year before the 2020 election and campaigned tirelessly for him in Iowa, the nation’s first caucus state. Biden adopted aspects of Vilsack’s rural policy agenda as Democrats look to make up ground they’ve lost to Republicans in rural areas over the past decade,
Having run the giant department for eight years under Obama and sat at the table with Biden, there’s little mystery to Vilsack’s expertise. Their 34-year friendship and longtime professional connection make the choice one offering little risk.
Vilsack entered politics in large part because of tragedy, when the mayor of Mount Pleasant was gunned down at a city council meeting in 1986. Vilsack, then a young lawyer, had grown up in Pittsburgh and moved with his wife, Christie, to her Iowa hometown. He was recruited to seek the mayor’s office, then served two terms in the Iowa Senate before being 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 withdrawing and throwing his support to Hillary Clinton, even as Biden was among the field. Vilsack was a finalist for Clinton’s running mate that year.
Axios was first to report Vilsack as agriculture secretary.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.