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Ben Carson to be named HUD secretary

WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald Trump said Monday he has chosen retired Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon and political rival Ben Carson to serve as the secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

If confirmed by the Senate, Carson would oversee more than 8,000 employees, a nearly $39 billion budget and national policies that affect millions of families who live in public housing or receive rental assistance from the federal government.

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"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."

Carson, who has no experience in government or with federal housing policy, has received push back from Trump's critics -- some of whom were surprised the incoming administration chose not to select Carson for a job involving medicine.

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"Dr. Ben Carson is a disconcerting and disturbingly unqualified choice to lead a department as complex and consequential as Housing and Urban Development," House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. "Our country deserves a HUD Secretary with the relevant experience."

Carson, a trailblazing pediatric neurosurgeon and former Baltimore County resident, burst onto the political scene in 2013 with a speech at the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. Carson, who is 65, suspended his own presidential campaign in March.

Though he was a vocal surrogate for Trump during the general election campaign, Carson initially played down discussion of serving in his administration. In November a close aide noted that Carson had no experience and that "the last thing he would want to do was take a position that could cripple the presidency."

Carson will face a number of important decisions at HUD. Several advocates have focused on his previous comments opposing federal fair housing regulations approved by the Obama administration last year. Those rules require cities like Baltimore to create plans to reduce segregation.

But low income housing advocates are also concerned about the agency's budget. The incoming president has vowed to trim non-defense spending across the board: At HUD that could mean a reduction in development grants used by cities or rental vouchers used by roughly 3 million people.

On the other hand, throughout the presidential campaign, Trump spoke repeatedly of revitalizing cities. He frequently promised to "turn our inner cities around" and "bring jobs back."

He offered no specifics for how he would accomplish those goals.

"It's devastating what's happening to our inner cities," Trump said during a debate in October. "What do you have to lose? It can't get any worse."

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