President-elect Donald Trump on Saturday heaped praise on Sacramento first lady Michelle Rhee, considered a candidate for secretary of education, as well as her husband, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who accompanied Rhee to an afternoon meeting with Trump in New Jersey.
The meeting in the clubhouse of Trump National Golf Course in Bedminster, N.J. lasted less than an hour. Trump and Mike Pence, the vice president-elect, emerged together from the meeting along with Rhee and Johnson. Trump stopped on the front step of the clubhouse to shake hands with Rhee and Johnson.
When asked by reporters about the meeting, Trump said it “went great, went great.”
He said Rhee is a “real talent” before adding praise for Johnson as well, declaring “both greatly talented.”
It’s not clear to what extent Johnson was involved in the meeting. But he and Rhee had entered the clubhouse together to greetings from Trump and Pence.
It was the second meeting of the day for Trump as he considers cabinet appointments. He first met with Mitt Romney, who is rumored to be in the running for secretary of state.
After Rhee and Johnson left, Trump met with Betsy DeVos, a Republican megadonor and education activist from Michigan who is also considered a candidate for education secretary.
Trump spokesman Jason Miller said some of Trump’s meetings are to get advice and others are for possible cabinet appointments. He declined to say which category Rhee was in. But he’s mentioned Rhee, who is Asian-American, in response to questioning about women and minorities who may be considered for a top job.
Rhee and Johnson are both Democrats. But Rhee is an outspoken advocate for charter schools and broke with her party to support school-choice vouchers.
Trump is also a supporter of charter schools and taxpayer-funded vouchers to help parents who want their kids in private or parochial schools rather than public schools.
Rhee and Trump disagree, though, on Common Core, the state-based system of school standards that Trump pledges to dismantle. Rhee has appeared with Jeb Bush to defend Common Core.
Rhee was chancellor of schools in Washington, D.C. from 2007-2010, rising to prominence in the education reform movement and clashing with teacher’s unions.
Rhee subsequently founded a school reform group, StudentsFirst, which advocates for school-choice alternatives. She chairs the board of St. Hope Public Schools, a Sacramento-based charter school organization founded by her husband.
Johnson was first elected Sacramento mayor in 2008 and leaves the position next month. The former professional basketball star has been praised for attracting real estate development to Sacramento, including a new downtown arena for the NBA’s Kings. But he’s been dogged by accusations of past sexual misconduct, most recently highlighted in a March episode of HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.” Johnson, who denies the accusations, announced last year he wouldn’t run for a third term.
Rhee and Johnson entered the Trump National Golf Course at 2:25 p.m., two minutes after Romney exited. They emerged with Trump and Pence at 3:04 p.m.
It’s not clear when Trump will announce a decision on his education secretary or whether he will schedule meetings with other potential candidates. Eva Moskowitz, a charter school leader from New York, met with Trump last week at Trump Tower but said afterward that she would not be in the running for the job.