WASHINGTON, Jan. 2, 2017 - Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue is emerging as President-elect Donald Trump’s selection for agriculture secretary even though the search had focused in recent weeks on a woman or Hispanic and no official announcement has yet been issued.A source close to the transition team confirmed media reports Monday that Trump had settled on Perdue, whom the president-elect had interviewed in November.
Perdue, 70, served two terms as Georgia governor, from 2003 to 2011. He has a doctorate in veterinary medicine although he spent much of his career in business in rural Georgia, running a company with agribusiness and transportation holdings. Before his election as governor, Perdue spent 11 years in the state senate, most of that as a Democrat. He became a Republican in 1998.
Perdue’s former campaign manager, Nick Ayers, is now an aide to Vice President-elect Mike Pence.
The reports that Trump was turning to Perdue for USDA surprised many in agriculture who were expecting the position to go to a Hispanic, since Trump has yet to select one for his cabinet. Last week, Trump interviewed former Texas Gov. Henry Bonilla and former Texas A&M University President Elsa Murano in Florida and later was photographed with them.
Trump also interviewed former California Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado and met briefly with Susan Combs, a former Texas agriculture commissioner and state comptroller.
Earlier in the search process, Trump appeared close to picking Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., but that possibility met with strong resistance from Trump’s agricultural advisers.