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Tucson Mayor Romero up for HUD post in Biden admin

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero is being considered for a position in the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva said Friday that she could join the Biden administration, confirming a rumor that's been circulating for months.

Romero, elected mayor in 2019 in a landslide with no Republican opponent after serving on the City Council since the 2007 election, has refused to publicly discuss the rumors — widespread in political circles since November — that she could be tapped for as a deputy director of HUD by President Joe Biden.

The Democratic city leader hasn't confirmed that she's a candidate for a federal post.

But Grijalva — a close political ally who employs Romero's husband as a top advisor — put the possibility on the record during an interview on Bill Buckmaster's radio show on Friday.

"I think she's being seriously considered; it's an important position," the congressman said.

"It's a position of national importance," said Grijalva, who said Romero faces a list of challenges of "significant importance here," such as dealing with COVID-19 and economic recovery following the pandemic, that she may wish to continue to tackle as mayor.

Romero holds "an important and prominent position in this community" as mayor, and has accomplished "many firsts" here, he said.

Romero's office has consistently declined to comment directly on whether a federal job is in the works for the 47-year-old Democrat, saying only that it would be "an honor to be considered" if it were the case.

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Friday, her spokesman reiterated that "it would be an honor to even be considered for such an important position."

"However, Mayor Romero is focused on the job she was elected by Tucsonans to perform, and is concentrating all of her efforts on navigating Tucson through the pandemic," said Nate Sigal.

"It's a tough call; it's her call," Grijalva said, noting there are "arguments to be made on both sides of it, including retaining the position that she has right now."

If Romero accepts the post, her seat would be filled by a new mayor appointed by the City Council to serve out the remainder of her term.

Biden's nominee for HUD secretary, Marcia Fudge, was confirmed this Wednesday by the Senate, with the U.S. representative from Ohio receiving a 66-34 vote. That move clears lower-level nominations in the national agency to be submitted and moved through the Senate.

Romero just survived an abortive recall attempt, with organizers — who cited her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, among other issues — unable to file enough properly filled-out petitions with signatures for officials to even undertake a review of whether the signatures themselves were valid.

Romero has repeatedly challenged Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on coronavirus issues. A year ago, she declared a stay-at-home order in Tucson, shutting down bars early on St. Patrick's Day, as the first cases of COVID-19 were reported to be spreading in the state. She and Ducey have reportedly not spoken since last spring.

Before being elected mayor, Romero represented Ward 1 on the City Council, and was the Latino outreach director for the Center for Biological Diversity. Romero, a University of Arizona graduate, earned a certificate from the John F. Kennedy School of Government, and is the first female and first Latina mayor of Tucson.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the Senate vote for HUD secretary Marcia Fudge.


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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

Romero at a May 2020 press conference.