President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that he plans to nominate former Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan as administrator of the General Services Administration, a powerful position whose previous occupant played a role in his delayed transition to the presidency.
Carnahan worked at GSA between 2016 and 2020, where she “founded and led the State and Local Government Practice at 18F, a tech consultancy inside the US government General Services Administration,” according to the White House announcement.
Carnahan is a fellow at Georgetown University’s Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation. She co-founded the center’s State Software Collaborative, which works with state agencies to streamline and share use of general services software.
In 2004, Carnahan was elected Missouri’s secretary of state. In that role, she enacted Missouri’s first statewide voter-registration system, established the Missouri Voting Rights Center and unveiled an interactive election results website, according to her biography at the National Democratic Institute, where she has served as a board member.
Prior to that, she worked at the Export-Import Bank of the United States and for the National Democratic Institute in central and Eastern Europe doing voting and elections work after the fall of the Berlin Wall, according to the biography.
Carnahan comes from a political family. Her father, the late Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan, was a popular two-term Democrat who died in a plane crash in October 2000 during his Senate campaign and then posthumously won the seat that November. Her mother, Jean Carnahan, was appointed to serve in the seat, filling the role from 2001 to 2002 and becoming the first woman to represent Missouri in the US Senate.
Carnahan earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from William Jewell College and a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law, per the White House.
Biden’s intended choice to helm the General Services Administration comes after his administration learned the role’s power during the presidential transition. The agency’s administrator under then-President Donald Trump, Emily Murphy, waited more than two weeks after Biden had been declared the winner in the election to inform him that the Trump administration was ready to begin the formal transition process, a normally perfunctory process known as ascertainment.
The delay in ascertainment meant that Biden’s team was locked out from government data and could not make contact with federal agencies, nor could it spend $6.3 million in government funding available at the time for the transition. A Biden official said the most urgent need was for the transition to be given access to Covid-19 data and the vaccine distribution plans.
CNN’s Jason Hoffman, Kristen Holmes and Jeremy Herb contributed to this report.