Gina Raimondo

Gina Marie Raimondo (/rəˈmɒnd/; born May 17, 1971) is an American politician and venture capitalist serving since 2021 as the 40th and current United States Secretary of Commerce. A member of the Democratic Party, she previously served as the 75th and first female Governor of Rhode Island from 2015 to 2021.[1][2]

Gina Raimondo
Gina Raimondo (cropped).jpg
40th United States Secretary of Commerce
Assumed office
March 3, 2021
PresidentJoe Biden
DeputyDon Graves
Preceded byWilbur Ross
75th Governor of Rhode Island
In office
January 6, 2015 – March 2, 2021
LieutenantDaniel McKee
Preceded byLincoln Chafee
Succeeded byDaniel McKee
30th General Treasurer of Rhode Island
In office
January 4, 2011 – January 6, 2015
GovernorLincoln Chafee
Preceded byFrank Caprio
Succeeded bySeth Magaziner
Personal details
Born
Gina Marie Raimondo

(1971-05-17) May 17, 1971 (age 50)
Smithfield, Rhode Island, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)
Andrew Moffit
(m. 2001)
Children2
EducationHarvard University (AB)
New College, Oxford (MA, DPhil)
Yale University (JD)

She served as General Treasurer of Rhode Island from 2011 to 2015. She was selected as the Democratic candidate for Rhode Island's governorship in the 2014 election. Raimondo won the election on November 4, 2014, with 41% of the vote, in a three-way race, against the mayor of Cranston, Republican Allan Fung, and businessman Robert J. Healey.[3] She won re-election on November 6, 2018. She resigned as Governor in March 2021 after being confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve as the United States Secretary of Commerce. [1] Raimondo was confirmed by a vote of 84 to 15.[4]

Early life and educationEdit

Gina Marie Raimondo was born in 1971[5] in Smithfield, Rhode Island, where she later grew up. Of Italian descent, she is the youngest of Josephine (Piro) and Joseph Raimondo's three children.[6][7] Her father, Joseph (1926–2014), made his career at the Bulova watch factory in Providence, Rhode Island. He became unemployed at 56 when the Bulova company decamped operations to China, shuttering the factory in Providence.[8] Raimondo was a childhood friend of U.S. Senator Jack Reed.[9] Raimondo graduated from LaSalle Academy, in Providence, as one of the first girls[10] allowed to attend the Catholic school, where she was valedictorian.[11]

Raimondo graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree magna cum laude in economics from Harvard College in 1993, where she served on the staff of The Harvard Crimson.[12] While at Harvard, she resided in Qunicy House. She attended New College, Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, where she received a Master of Arts (MA) degree and Doctor of Philosophy in 2002 in sociology.[13] Her thesis was on single motherhood and supervised by Stephen Nickell and Anne H. Gauthier while she was a postgraduate student of New College, Oxford.[13][14] Raimondo received her Juris Doctor degree from Yale Law School in 1998.[14]

Early careerEdit

Following her graduation from Yale Law School, Raimondo served as a law clerk to federal judge Kimba Wood of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Later, Raimondo acted as senior vice president for fund development at the Manhattan offices of Village Ventures, a venture capital firm based in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and backed by Bain Capital and Highland Capital Groups.[15][16] Raimondo returned to Rhode Island in 2000 to co-found the state's first venture capital firm, Point Judith Capital. Point Judith subsequently relocated its offices to Boston, Massachusetts.[17] At Point Judith, Raimondo served as a general partner covering health care investments; she retains some executive duties with the firm.[18][19]

General treasurer of Rhode IslandEdit

On November 2, 2010, Raimondo was elected as general treasurer of Rhode Island by a margin of 62% to 38%.[20]

 
Raimondo in 2012

During her first year as general treasurer, she prioritized reforming Rhode Island's public employee pension system, which was 48% funded in 2010.[21] In April 2011, Raimondo led the state retirement board to reduce the state's assumed rate of return on pension investments from 8.25 percent to 7.5 percent.[22] In May 2011, Raimondo released "Truth in Numbers", a report that advocated for benefit cuts as the solution to Rhode Island's pension problems, and she helped lead the effort to cut pensions, along with then-Speaker of the House Gordon Fox.[23] The Rhode Island Retirement Security Act (RIRSA) was enacted by the General Assembly on November 17, 2012, with bipartisan support in both chambers. The next day, Lincoln Chafee signed RIRSA into law. The legality of RIRSA was challenged in court by the public employee unions, but a settlement was reached in June 2015.[24]

Under Raimondo's tenure, the pension fund was criticized for underperforming when compared with its peers.[25] Raimondo's critics attributed the underperformance to a sharp increase in fees paid to hedge fund managers while her supporters argued investments in hedge funds stabilize investments during market downturns for more consistent returns over time.[26]

MunicipalitiesEdit

Raimondo created the Ocean State Investment Pool (OSIP), a low-cost investment vehicle intended to help the state and municipalities better manage and improve the investment performance of their liquid assets, which are used for day-to-day operations including payroll and operating expenses. $500 million in funds could be eligible for the program, which would enable Treasury "to extend its expertise to municipalities and improve investment returns by creating economies of scale".[27] The program launched on April 23, 2012.[28]

Payday lendingEdit

During the Rhode Island General Assembly's 2012 session, Raimondo advocated for a decrease in the maximum allowable interest rate on payday loans in Rhode Island. She hosted a roundtable discussion with then Providence mayor Angel Taveras and members of the Rhode Island Payday Reform Coalition.[29] Raimondo submitted letters to the Senate and House Corporations Committees in support of payday reform legislation. She wrote "Far too many families are facing financial challenges that might be mitigated or avoided through a greater understanding of personal finance," and "payday loans exploit that lack of understanding ... With numerous economic challenges, Rhode Island should not permit the sale of a financial product that traps so many customers in a cycle of debt."[30] Raimondo wrote an op-ed in the edition of May 29, 2012 of The Providence Journal in support of payday lending reform.[31]

Governor of Rhode IslandEdit

 
Raimondo at her inauguration in 2015

Raimondo was elected governor of Rhode Island on November 4, 2014, winning 41% of the vote in a three-way race, defeating challengers Allan Fung (R) and Robert J. Healey of the Moderate Party. Raimondo is the first female governor of Rhode Island.[32] At the time of her resignation, she was one of nine incumbent female governors of the United States.

When she ran for governor, Rhode Island had the nation's highest unemployment rate.[8] Raimondo has cut taxes every year and removed eight thousand pages of regulations – thirty percent of the state's regulations. She raised the state minimum wage to $11.50, created a sick-leave entitlement, financed the largest infrastructure program in the state's history, appointed more judges of color than any previous Rhode Island governor,[33] and made community colleges tuition-free.[8]

Raimondo was elected to serve as the vice chair of the Democratic Governors Association for the 2018 election cycle.[34] She was subsequently elected as chair of the Democratic Governors Association in 2019.[35][36] Raimondo ran for and won reelection to a second term as Governor of Rhode Island in 2018, becoming the first candidate to secure a majority of votes for that office since 2006.

Approval ratingsEdit

Between assuming office and the end of 2019, Raimondo consistently ranked towards the bottom of approval ratings for all governors in the United States.[37]

In April 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Microsoft News conducted a poll to determine how well governors across the U.S. were handling mitigation of COVID-19. The poll found 76% of Rhode Islanders said they approved of the work done by Raimondo and her administration "to keep people safe" during the ongoing crisis.[38] Partnering with CVS, the nation's largest pharmacy chain, headquartered in Woonsocket, her state has achieved one of the nation's highest per capita levels of testing for COVID-19. Her approval rating has soared during the pandemic.[8]

The poll found majority support across all 50 states for how governors are handling the pandemic. Raimondo was tied with the governors of North Dakota and Utah for the 12th-highest rating.[39]

CriticismEdit

State Health and Human Services computer system failureEdit

A widely-criticized rollout of a new computer network system for the Rhode Island Executive Office of Health and Human Services dubbed the "Unified Health Infrastructure Project" (UHIP) in September 2016 saw scores of people without access to government programs such as food stamps and child care due to glitches in the software, designed[40] by Deloitte. This computer crash created a backlog of more than 20,000 cases.[41]

The Raimondo Administration received several letters from the federal government in August and September 2016 warning that UHIP was not ready to be launched. On the orders of Raimondo, the UHIP launch occurred as planned despite these federal warnings. The U.S. Food and Nutrition Service's Northeast Regional Administrator, Kurt Messner, urged Raimondo to postpone the launch because it would interrupt or interfere with benefits the agency oversees. Messner said in the letter which local news outlets described as "strongly-worded" that "the transition plan remains inadequate and unacceptable." Messner also pointed out that the state had failed to gradually launch UHIP in phases or administer a live pilot test of UHIP. Messner opined that "Launching a system without having conducted a live pilot is against the intent of the regulations and against our best advice." The Raimondo Administration ultimately ignored the federal warnings resulting in benefit delays, system downtime, and benefit loss caused in error.[42]

In December 2016, the federal government give the state Department of Human Services less than a month to fix the UHIP computer system or risk losing $13 million in federal funding. Federal officials judged that the state was not compliant in lowering a significant case backlog, starting a sufficient call-center, adequate staff training, and improving wait times at Health and Human Services field offices.[43]

In February 2017, Executive Secretary of Health and Human Services Elizabeth H. Roberts resigned from her cabinet post in the Raimondo Administration[44] due to the failed roll-out of the UHIP.[44]

In March 2017, Rhode Island Monthly reported that the U.S. Department of Justice opened an investigation into UHIP, specifically false claims and statements made about the Health and Human Services computer network rollout. The investigation was still underway as of summer 2017. In an interview, House Oversight Chair Rep. Patricia Serpa (D-West Warwick) said, "There's plenty of blame to go around. The auditor's report found that [the contract with Deloitte] was poorly written, poorly overseen and poorly executed. They were warned against the implementation because the system was not ready. Not only did they implement it, they displaced all of the most senior workers with the wealth of experience. We pulled all the plugs to make sure this was a failure."[45]

According to documents submitted to the federal government, the cost estimate for UHIP through 2021 is $656 million. State taxpayers will pay $154 million of this amount while the federal government will pay the remainder.[46]

In January 2020, State Senator Sam Bell said a Rhode Island Senate Fiscal Report on Raimondo's budget proved that "a single UHIP update kicked 5,500 Rhode Islanders off their Medicaid" in November 2019 without due process and the decisions were based on a computer update. Bell went on: "Medicaid terminations need to be done with some due process. They should not come from a notoriously glitchy computer system. You should have a chance to fight the decision to rip away your health insurance. When you lose your Medicaid with no warning and no effort to transition you onto the exchange, the consequences can be deadly."[47]

RI DCYF fatalities and near-fatalitiesEdit

Under Raimondo, the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth & Families has come under fire for the rate of deaths and near-deaths of children in its care.[48] In a period between January 2016 and December 2017, there were 31 fatalities or near fatalities of children in its care, with eight being confirmed fatal.[48]

Raimondo appointed Trista Piccola as her new DCYF director in January 2017. Piccola's term was marked by the death and near-deaths of children,[48] high staff turnover,[49] votes of no confidence,[50] and high budget deficits.[51] Rep. Patricia Serpa and Rep. Charlene Lima called for Piccola's resignation, which finally occurred in July 2019.[52][53][54]

In October 2018, the United States Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families ordered the Raimondo Administration DCYF to improve in 33 of 36 areas assessed.[55] The federal report noted that DCYF services were "inadequate, not developed when needed, or lacked consistent monitoring". Harvard Kennedy School professor and former Obama Administration official Jeffrey Liebman agreed with the recommendations and analysis of the report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and claimed that the DCYF is "the most messed-up agency ever".[56]

With Piccola's departure, the interim director is DCYF executive legal counsel Kevin Aucoin.[57] Aucoin has served in an interim director capacity twice before when DCYF was without a permanent Director. Secretary of the Rhode Island Executive Office of Health and Human Services and Raimondo cabinet member Womazetta Jones said in December 2019 that she was "very determined to stay the course of not hiring anybody unless it's the right person". As of December 2020 DCYF does not have a permanent Director.[58]

During Raimondo's tenure as Governor, the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) has focused on shifting children from congregate settings to licensed foster homes. DCYF has increased its capacity and utilization of licensed foster homes, including an increase in the number of licensed kinship families, from 280 in October 2019 to 576 in June 2020. As of December 2020, 83% of all children placed in out-of-home care are placed in a foster home. Since 2015, the Department’s intensive reforms have resulted in a 43% reduction in the number of youth placed in congregate care and a 39% reduction in the number of youth placed in out-of-state congregate care. At the same time, the Department has increased the number of children placed in licensed foster family homes.[59]

Bloomberg 2020 campaign involvementEdit

In early February 2020, Raimondo appeared alongside former Republican New York City Mayor and Democratic presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg at the Wexford Innovation Center in Providence to endorse his candidacy, a move she described as "an easy call".[60] Raimondo was named a national co-chair for the Bloomberg campaign.

Press secretary Jennifer Bogdan Jones of the Governor's Office told The Providence Journal "[Raimondo] is prepared to do whatever it takes to support Mike and defeat President Trump."[61] As campaign co-chair, Raimondo would have "provided advice and attended events". Less than a month later, however, Bloomberg dropped out of the race and endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden.[62] On the same day, Raimondo also endorsed Biden. She said Bloomberg "obviously" performed poorly on the debate stage but supporting his candidacy "was an easy decision for me at the beginning. But [supporting Biden] is an easy decision, too." Raimondo concluded that it was now time "to unify behind Joe Biden".[63]

Clash with New York Gov. Cuomo over COVID-19 quarantineEdit

On March 28, 2020, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo threatened Raimondo with a lawsuit over a new state quarantine policy, which would make sure people from New York, which had been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, would self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Rhode Island.[64][65] On March 29, Raimondo repealed the order that specifically referred to New Yorkers, and broadened it to include any out-of-state traveler entering Rhode Island with intent to stay.[66]

Secretary of CommerceEdit

 
Vice President Kamala Harris swears-in Gina Raimondo as Secretary of Commerce Wednesday, March 3, 2021.
 
Raimondo answers questions with Press Secretary Jen Psaki in the White House briefing room in April 2021

Following the 2020 United States presidential election, Raimondo was routinely mentioned as a possible cabinet secretary in the incoming Biden Administration. Though first seen as a likely Secretary of Health and Human Services, Raimondo announced on December 3, 2020, that she would not be taking that role.[67] She was also considered for Secretary of the Treasury.[68][69]

On January 7, 2021, Biden announced he would nominate Raimondo to serve as his Secretary of Commerce.[70] She appeared before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on January 26.[71] On March 1, the Senate voted 84–15 in favor of cloture on the nomination, and confirmed Raimondo to the position the following day by a vote of 84–15.[72] She was duly sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris on March 3, 2021.[73]

Community serviceEdit

Raimondo serves as vice chair of the board of directors of Crossroads Rhode Island, the state's largest homeless services organization. Until 2011, she was an administrator of Women and Infants Hospital and chair of its Quality Committee. She has served on the boards of La Salle Academy and Family Service of Rhode Island.[citation needed]

Fellowships and awardsEdit

She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and an Aspen Institute Rodel fellow. She was awarded an honorary degree from Bryant University, in 2012; and has received awards from the northern Rhode Island chamber of commerce and the YWCA of northern Rhode Island. Raimondo was elected alumni fellow at Yale, in 2014.[74]

Electoral historyEdit

2010 Rhode Island General Treasurer Election[75][76]
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Gina Raimondo 69,645 100.00
Total votes 69,645 100
General election
Democratic Gina Raimondo 201,625 62.14
Republican Kernan King 122,860 37.86
Total votes 324,485 100
2014 Rhode Island Governor Election[77][78]
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Gina Raimondo 53,990 42.15
Democratic Angel Taveras 37,326 29.14
Democratic Clay Pell 34,515 26.94
Democratic Todd Giroux 2,264 1.77
Total votes 128,095 100
General election
Democratic Gina Raimondo 131,899 40.70
Republican Allan Fung 117,428 36.28
Moderate Robert J. Healey 69,278 21.38
Independent Kate L. Fletcher 3,483 1.07
Independent Leon M. Kayarian 1,228 0.38
Write-in 739 0.23
Total votes 324,055 100
2018 Rhode Island Governor Election[79][80]
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Gina Raimondo (incumbent) 67,370 57.15
Democratic Matthew A. Brown 39,518 33.53
Democratic Spencer Dickinson 10,987 9.32
Total votes 117,875 100
General election
Democratic Gina Raimondo (incumbent) 198,122 52.64
Republican Allan Fung 139,932 37.18
Independent Joe Trillo 16,532 4.39
Moderate William H. Gilbert 10,155 2.70
Independent Luis Daniel Munoz 6,223 1.65
Compassion Anne Armstrong 4,191 1.11
Write-in 1,246 0.33
Total votes 376,401 100

Personal lifeEdit

On December 1, 2001, Raimondo married Andrew Kind Moffit, in Providence.[81] The couple have two children, Cecilia and Thompson Raimondo Moffit. The family resides on the east side of Providence. Raimondo is a practicing Roman Catholic.[82]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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