PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Rhode Island lawmakers and leaders alike are praising Gov. Gina Raimondo’s work ethic and experience as she prepares to join President-elect Joe Biden’s cabinet as commerce secretary.
In a news release announcing the nomination, Biden said Raimondo “will be a key player in helping position the United States as an exporter of 21st century products and leader in the clean energy economy.”
She still has to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, which is poised to be Democratically-controlled following the Georgia Senate runoff election earlier this week.
Raimondo confirmed she accepted the nomination on Twitter Thursday, writing: “As Secretary of Commerce, I will harness that same American ingenuity to create good-paying union jobs and build our economy back better than ever before.”
Sen. Jack Reed, who said he’s known Raimondo since she was a baby, called her a “talented, thoughtful, hard-charging and effective leader.”
“Our nation is facing unprecedented economic strain,” Reed said. “In tapping Governor Raimondo for this key post, President-elect Biden has selected someone with the skills and experience to solve pressing economic and trade challenges.”
“Gina Raimondo is someone who carefully studies the issues, is always well-prepared, and has a proven track record of being a pragmatic, progressive problem solver,” he continued. “She is an extremely effective manager who really listens to different perspectives, asks the right questions, and then brings people together to execute. She has demonstrated the ability to forge partnerships to create jobs and expand opportunities.”
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said he believes Rhode Islanders will continue to benefit from Raimondo’s leadership, “as she takes on a major role in overseeing the national economic recovery and making American businesses more competitive in the global marketplace.”
“I look forward to working with Secretary Raimondo on prioritizing the stewardship of our oceans at NOAA, and continuing to make job-creating investments in Rhode Island through the Economic Development Administration,” Whitehouse said. “Our oceans are in crisis, and as Secretary of Oceans and Commerce, Gina can bring overdue leadership to these perils and our blue economies.”
Rep. David Cicilline also expressed his support for Raimondo’s nomination, adding that he looks forward to continuing their work together.
“Nearly six years to the day after she took the oath of office on the steps of our State House, Governor Gina Raimondo prepares to leave Rhode Island in much better shape than she found it,” Cicilline said. “Few governors have been as consequential for our state. None have matched her effectiveness, or the calm, steady hand with which she has guided us through this pandemic.”
Rep. Jim Langevin said he’s thrilled that Raimondo, who he called “a great ally and champion for our state” will be joining Biden’s cabinet.
“As a fierce advocate for the Ocean State, the governor made improving our business environment a priority,” Langevin said. “The signs of progress are visible throughout the state as entrepreneurs, businesses of all sizes, and wide-ranging industries continue to invest and grow. In the midst of the global pandemic, Governor Raimondo also offered strong leadership that helped save lives, safeguard communities, and keep families afloat in unprecedented times.”
R.I. Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea said she’s “particularly looking forward to her leadership of the U.S. Census Bureau.”
“Governor Gina Raimondo has been a trailblazing leader throughout her life,” Gorbea said. “In choosing her as his nominee for Commerce Secretary, President-elect Biden is recognizing her experience and dedication to enhancing commerce. Governor Raimondo will serve our nation well in this role.”
General Treasurer Seth Magaziner said Raimondo is “capable and talented.”
“I have full confidence that she will serve our country well in this new role,” Magaziner said. “It is a source of pride for Rhode Islanders to have one of our own represented in the president’s cabinet.”
Magaziner and Gorbea are both widely expected to run for governor in 2022, as is Lt. Gov. Dan McKee, who is poised to take over the job when Raimondo leaves for Washington.
Newly-elected R.I. House Speaker Joe Shekarchi said he was “thrilled” for Raimondo, but called the nomination “bittersweet.”
“One of the reasons I was most excited about being elected Speaker was to have the opportunity to work closely with her again,” Shekarchi said. “From the day I accepted the job to manage her first political campaign when she ran for General Treasurer in 2010, I knew she was destined for greatness. I have absolutely no doubt she will be a rock star in Washington. As President-elect Biden seeks to rebuild a post-COVID economy, he has chosen the perfect person to guide him.”
R.I. Senate President Dominick Ruggerio said Raimondo will make an outstanding commerce secretary.
“Governor Raimondo took office at a time when Rhode Island had the highest unemployment rate in the nation, and she brought our state to record employment levels before the pandemic hit,” Ruggerio said. “I know she will have a tremendous impact at the national level.”
“I am going to miss her courageous leadership, keen intellect and sharp analysis of the issues,” he continued. “On behalf of the Rhode Island Senate, I wish her and her family all the very best as she takes on this very important role.”
From the Republican side of the aisle, House Minority Leader Blake Filippi also tweeted his well wishes for Raimondo.
“It’s always good to see a fellow Rhode Islander succeed, especially when she’ll be looking out for Rhode Island in D.C.,” Filippi wrote.
R.I. Democratic Party Chairman Joseph McNamara said Raimondo has been “a fierce fighter for Rhode Island,” adding that Raimondo guided the state “through some of the most challenging economic times, high unemployment and a gripping, deadly pandemic.”
“We all wish the secretary-nominee and her family the very best of success in the years ahead,” he continued.
Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza said Raimondo “will be ready on day one to support our nation’s economy through this pandemic and will outline a clear plan for recovery.”
“I thank her for her partnership over the past six years and wish her and her family the very best,” he wrote.
Raimondo’s director of administration Brett Smiley congratulated Raimondo on Twitter, adding “she’ll roll up her sleeves and get to work for the country just like she did for Rhode Island.”
Former Providence Mayor and Democratic challenger to Raimondo Angel Taveras wished Raimondo well in her new role.
“Thank you for being such a great example for my daughter and all Rhode Islanders! Wish you the best as you get US economy going again for all Americans!” he wrote in a tweet.
Republican National Committeeman Steve Frias offered a somewhat dissenting note to Raimondo’s nomination.
“It is a surprising appointment in two ways,” Frias said in an email. “First, just a month ago, Governor Raimondo stated she was not joining President-elect Biden’s cabinet because she felt ‘a massive obligation to the people of Rhode Island.’ Second, Biden is choosing Raimondo as commerce secretary although she is the governor of a state that was ranked by CNBC as being the worst in the nation for business.”
“But, in a way, it is no surprise,” he continued. “Raimondo is perhaps the most ambitious Rhode Island politician since J. Howard McGrath, the last Rhode Island politician who served in the United States cabinet. McGrath’s appointment turned out to be a disastrous. I hope for her sake and the country things turn out differently.”