PROVIDENCE – When Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden named US Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate earlier this month, it appeared to put to rest the idea that Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo’s bags were already packed for Washington, D.C.
For a couple of days, at least.
While Raimondo was always seen as a long shot to join Biden at the top of the ticket, The New York Times reported that she left the former vice president’s search team “dazzled” during her interview, which in turn has fueled speculation at home that she could join the Biden administration if he defeats President Trump in November.
Raimondo has maintained that she is focused on helping Rhode Island navigate through the coronavirus pandemic and reopening schools, but the Globe spoke with 11 current and former Raimondo staffers, longtime allies, and political observers about potential jobs for her in the Biden administration.
These are the most likely options.
First, she finishes out her term
Raimondo only has two years left as governor, but when you’re a Rhodes Scholar, a Yale-educated lawyer, and a former venture capitalist with a national profile, chances are you’re not going to struggle to find a job. She could complete her two terms as governor and secure a well-paid gig in the private sector, or if Biden becomes the president, join the administration in two years. It’s not uncommon for Cabinet-level posts to open up midway through a president’s term. Plus, she’s not exactly on the best terms with Lieutenant Governor Dan McKee, who would take over as governor if she exits early.
This would likely be the hardest job to turn down, as no woman has ever held the job and it closely aligns with Raimondo’s skill set. (Plus, “Hamilton.”) Brown University political science professor Wendy Schiller said that secretary of the treasury or commerce are the jobs Raimondo would most likely be considered for in a Biden administration, but “there are a long line of folks in Biden’s orbit who would want to join his Cabinet, so the competition would be substantial for her.” (Among them: Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, seen by some as a treasury candidate.)
While Raimondo built her reputation as Rhode Island’s treasurer, her tenure as governor (before the pandemic) was largely focused on recruiting companies to the state and creating jobs. Mike Raia, a former communications director for Raimondo, declined to discuss specific jobs, but said his former boss could be a strong member of the Cabinet because she has shown “effective, pragmatic leadership” during the pandemic and a Biden administration would need someone with those skills to help rebuild the country.
It’s easy to forget that before the pandemic, one of Raimondo’s signature initiatives was attempting to rebuild Rhode Island’s bridges. In fact, Biden visited the state in 2016 to drum up support for RhodeWorks, Raimondo’s 10-year infrastructure plan that is partially financed by tolling commercial trucks on highways.
National Economic Council director
Imagine having the same clout in the Oval Office as any Cabinet secretary without having to go through a Senate confirmation process. Welcome to the National Economic Council. The top spot is currently held by Larry Kudlow. Here’s a fun fact: There have been only 12 directors of the National Economic Council (it was created under President Bill Clinton), and four of them have donated to Raimondo’s political campaign over the years.
Joe Cammarano, the chair of the political science department at Providence College, has an out-of-the-box theory for the role Raimondo could play in a Biden administration: “It’s a bit tongue-in-cheek, but she would be a perfect person to be the White House czar on fixing all the bureaucratic agencies the Trump administration has spent almost four years either neglecting or purposely destroying.”
This is highly unlikely because Biden has said he will name an educator to run the department, but Cammarano said Raimondo’s work “in trying to teach computer coding in all public schools” would make her an attractive choice. She also helped implement a free community college program in the state.
Dan McGowan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.