PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Gov. Gina Raimondo on Thursday ruled out leaving her job to become President-elect Joe Biden’s health and human services secretary, seeking to put the idea to rest after a flurry of reports that she was a finalist for the job.
Raimondo’s potential appointment has been rumored since before Thanksgiving, but the speculation intensified this week after multiple sources close to Biden’s transition team told national news outlets she had emerged as a top contender. Sources close to Raimondo confirmed to 12 News on Wednesday that she appeared to be getting serious consideration.
“I realize that rumors are rampant, and yesterday there was a lot of speculation about me being considered to become the secretary of health and human services, and I did want to address that honestly with you,” Raimondo said during her weekly coronavirus briefing.
“I am not going to be President-elect Biden’s nominee for HHS secretary,” she said. “My focus is right here in Rhode Island, as I have said. I’m working 24/7 to keep Rhode Islanders safe and keep our economy moving, and I have nothing else to add on that topic.”
The governor limited her comments to the position of health secretary, rather than ruling out accepting any job with Biden — leaving open the possibility she could wind up nominated for something else. It’s unclear if she is under serious consideration for any other post, but Biden’s advisers are said to think highly of her after they interviewed her for vice-president earlier this year.
Still, asked at the briefing whether she would feel an obligation to accept a position with Biden if he said he needed her, Raimondo said, “I have nothing more to say on that topic. I feel a massive obligation to the people of Rhode Island.”
At the same time, Raimondo’s name being floated for high-level Biden administration positions has drawn outrage from progressives, who are skeptical of her past career as a venture capitalist and take issue with multiple policies she’s pursued as an elected official, including the 2011 pension law.
Raimondo, a Democrat, is halfway through her second term and cannot seek re-election due to term limits. Lt. Gov. Dan McKee, also a Democrat, would become governor through 2022 if she were to move on.
Ted Nesi (firstname.lastname@example.org) is WPRI 12’s politics and business editor and a Target 12 investigative reporter. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook