Obama taps NY Republican for Army Secretary

OBAMA TAPS NY REPUBLICAN FOR ARMY SECRETARY…. For better or for worse, President Obama vowed to incorporate Republican officials into key posts in his administration. I guess he meant it.

New York Rep. John McHugh is President Barack Obama’s choice to be the new Secretary of the Army, a decision likely to set off an extremely competitive special election for the Republican’s 23rd district House seat.

A senior White House official confirmed that Obama had chosen McHugh for the post, news that was first reported by the New York Times’ Carl Hulse this morning.

McHugh has served in Congress since 1992 and has served on the House Armed Services Committee since 1993; he is currently the ranking minority member on the committee.

With New York poised to see its congressional delegation shrink after the 2010 census, McHugh’s 23rd district may cease to exist in the near future. As such, he was reportedly eyeing “a graceful exit” from the House, and the White House seems to have given him one.

This, in turn, continues to boost the partisan diversity of the Obama administration. You wouldn’t know it from far-right cries, but the president has quite a list of Republicans in key posts, which keeps growing — former Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.) is Transportation Secretary; Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. will be Ambassador to China; Bush’s Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, remains at his post; and now McHugh is on the team. New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg (R) was also nominated to be Commerce Secretary before withdrawing from consideration.

McHugh, if he’s on board with the president’s military policies, may offer at least some bipartisan cover on issues like closing Gitmo and restructuring Pentagon spending. On the other hand, it may also be discouraging for Democrats to see the president nominate another Republican for a key Defense post.

In terms of electoral considerations, McHugh is popular in his home district, but Obama won the 23rd last year. McHugh’s departure will open up a special-election opportunity for Democrats — who already won a surprise victory in New York’s 20th recently — and a Dem win here would “leave only two Republicans in the state’s 29-member House delegation with redistricting looming after the 2010 Census.”