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Trump chooses former campaign rival Ben Carson to be housing secretary

 (Christian Murdock / Associated Press)
(Christian Murdock / Associated Press)

President-elect Donald Trump has chosen Ben Carson, a rival in the GOP presidential primary who became a top supporter, to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Trump chose Carson despite the pediatric neurosurgeon’s protestations that he lacked the experience to run a federal agency. The announcement Monday that Carson has been picked for the post came after weeks of negotiations during which Carson said publicly he had little interest in serving in Trump’s Cabinet, but then expressed more openness to the idea as Trump publicly courted him.

“Ben Carson has a brilliant mind and is passionate about strengthening communities and families within those communities,” Trump said in a statement. “We have talked at length about my urban renewal agenda and our message of economic revival, very much including our inner cities. Ben shares my optimism about the future of our country and is part of ensuring that this is a presidency representing all Americans. He is a tough competitor and never gives up.”

Carson said in a statement that “I feel that I can make a significant contribution particularly by strengthening communities that are most in need. We have much work to do in enhancing every aspect of our nation and ensuring that our nation’s housing needs are met.”

The choice of Carson further positions Trump to move the federal government in a drastically different direction than President Obama on policies that will affect millions of low-income Americans. Carson, a tea party favorite, has been deeply critical of social welfare programs. He has characterized the country’s safety net of cash assistance, housing allowances and social services as a failure that perpetuates dependence on government.

Carson would be taking on a post that was elevated to Cabinet-level as part of former President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” agenda, which Carson has pilloried as a colossal failure.

Trump picked Carson days after announcing that his administration’s effort to dismantle one of the most expansive programs serving low-income Americans, Obamacare, will be headed by Republican Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, a fiscal conservative and longtime crusader for substantially cutting healthcare spending. Price is Trump’s pick to run the Department of Health and Human Services.

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