PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Gina Raimondo is the first Rhode Island politician to join a president’s cabinet in more than seven decades, and local leaders and lawmakers alike are congratulating her as she prepares to head to the nation’s capital.
Raimondo was confirmed Tuesday to join President Joe Biden’s cabinet as U.S. commerce secretary. She will replace acting-Commerce Secretary Wynn Coggins, who’s been leading the department on an interim basis since Biden took office in January.
Her successor, Gov. Dan McKee, was sworn into office Tuesday night following her resignation. He was one of many to wish Raimondo well in her new position.
“Rhode Islanders should be proud of Governor Raimondo’s confirmation as commerce secretary,” he said. “Our country will benefit from her leadership on important issues like a fair and accurate Census, promoting American businesses large and small, and making sure American companies are able to compete fairly overseas.”
Sen. Jack Reed has been a strong proponent of Raimondo since her nomination, and had previously called her a “talented, thoughtful, hard-charging and effective leader.”
He said he looks forward to working alongside her on the national level.
“She will lead with integrity and play a critical role overseeing a wide array of key initiatives essential to our nation’s future, from helping U.S. manufacturers compete to investing in economic development to managing our ocean resources,” Reed said. “She’ll build successful partnerships, bring people together, and help spur smart, sustainable economic growth.”
Rep. David Cicilline said he was pleased with Raimondo’s confirmation, and hopes that as she takes on her new role, he can continue, “to work with her to grow Rhode Island’s economy and create greater opportunities for the folks who live here.”
Rep. Jim Langevin said he has no doubt that, in her new role, Raimondo will “continue her good work to revitalize our nation.”
“President Joe Biden and the American people are fortunate to have such a committed and capable leader at the helm of the Department of Commerce,” he said. “It gives me great pride knowing that a Rhode Island native will help lead the effort to combat the economic crisis we face. I wish her the best of luck on this next endeavor, and I am committed to working closely with her and the Biden administration to see that our economy roars back.”
As commerce secretary, Raimondo will oversee the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said it’s fitting that an “Ocean State native” will play a key role in the nation’s fight against climate change.
“Raimondo will be an important partner in protecting our imperiled oceans and growing the Blue Economy,” Whitehouse said.
R.I. Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea called Raimondo’s confirmation, “a proud moment for all Rhode Islanders and a great way for women and girls everywhere to celebrate Women’s History Month.”
“Raimondo worked hard to enhance commerce in the Ocean State,” she said. “I am confident she will bring that leadership and dedication into her new role and serve our country well.”
R.I. Senate President Dominick Ruggerio and House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi issued a joint statement, lauding Raimondo’s confirmation.
“As governor, Gina Raimondo led our state to record employment levels before the pandemic hit, and she provided steady, compassionate leadership over this past, most difficult year,” they wrote. “On behalf of the General Assembly, we wish her and her family all the very best as she takes on this very important role.”
R.I. Treasurer Seth Magaziner said he’s seen Raimondo’s commitment to improve the state’s economy firsthand, and he has no doubt she will do the same for the entire country.
“The nation is lucky to have her, and it is an honor for Rhode Islanders to have one of their own represented in President Biden’s cabinet,” he said.
R.I. Democratic Party Chair Joseph McNamara said while he’s excited for Raimondo, he hopes she and her family will always call Rhode Island their home.
“Her ability to lead with talent, strength and humor got things done,” he said of her time as governor. “This is the skill-set she’ll need to help President Biden and this country overcome America’s financial problems, by supporting business, creating jobs and strengthening our economy.”
In her new role, Raimondo will also oversee the U.S. Census Bureau. Common Cause R.I. Executive Director John Marion said he’s hopeful she will prioritize the final stages of the 2020 Census, which has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We expect that she will ensure that the country receives fair and accurate 2020 Census data and will successfully lead the [Census] Bureau in the production of all data products important to the health and wealth of our democracy,” he said.