President-elect Barack Obama plans to nominate U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood to be his transportation secretary, according to numerous media sources. LaHood, 63, is a Republican from Peoria, Illinois, who already planned to step down from his congressional seat in January after 14 years in Congress.

LaHood is a good choice. He is popular among his constituents, thoughtful and known for his efforts to make Congress less partisan. Although he serves on the other side of the political aisle from Obama, LaHood seems like the president-elect’s type of guy.

I interviewed LaHood in February 2005 when he was considering a gubernatorial run against incumbent Gov. Rod Blagojevich. LaHood told me he wanted to help clean up the state’s sullied image, but ultimately he decided to stay in Congress instead of trying to move into the governor’s mansion. It was my impression that his decision was made partly because of the millions of dollars LaHood knew he would have to raise in order to run successful primary and general election campaigns.

LaHood impressed me then as someone who indeed was capable of helping fix the state’s image, but I also don’t think he would’ve beat the Chicago political machine to get in that position. Instead we got stuck with another Blagojevich term in Illinois – which isn’t LaHood’s fault – and now LaHood gets the chance to make a difference on a national scale.