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Mayor Romero says she's not interested in potential Biden HUD appointment

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero said Friday that's she intends to remain in her post, and won't be taking a potential federal appointment in the Biden administration. Romero had been vetted to be nominated as deputy secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Romero stopped short of directly confirming that she had been vetted for the post, although that possibility had been widely rumored for months and was confirmed last week by U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva.

"Although it would be an honor to even be considered for such an important post, my heart is here in Tucson, and I love the job Tucsonans elected me to serving as mayor of our beautiful city," Romero said Friday.

"I have communicated with the Biden-Harris Administration my intent to remain in my current position as mayor, as well as my eagerness to work in partnership with their administration on issues important to Tucsonans," she said.

'We have an amazing opportunity to make progress on issues of local and national importance with a presidential administration that understands the importance of climate action, infrastructure investment, and job creation," Romero said.

Romero, elected mayor in 2019 in a landslide with no Republican opponent after serving on the City Council since the 2007 election, had 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.

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 last week.

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

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"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 consistently declined to comment directly on whether a federal job might be 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.

"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 her spokesman, Nate Sigal, last week.

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

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

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.

Biden's nominee for HUD secretary, Marcia Fudge, was confirmed last 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.

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

Romero at a May 2020 press conference.