PROVIDENCE — Governor Gina M. Raimondo on Thursday put to rest speculation that she will join President-Elect Joe Biden’s Cabinet, saying, “My focus is right here in Rhode Island.”
On Wednesday, national news outlets described Raimondo as a top contender for Health and Human Services secretary, setting off a swirl of speculation about whether the term-limited Democrat will be offered the job and, if so, whether she would take it. Politicians and political pundits alike quickly weighed in on the pros and cons of her leaving, and whether Lieutenant Governor Daniel J. McKee might be prevented from appointing his own replacement.
During a COVID-19 news conference Thursday, Raimondo said, “I realize rumors are rampant” and that she wanted to address the speculation.
“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 am working 24/7 to keep Rhode Islanders safe and keeping our economy moving. And I have nothing else to add on that topic.”
Taking the Cabinet post would have required Raimondo to leave the governor’s office with two years left in her second and final term. And it would have required her to depart as the coronavirus is surging in Rhode Island — the state has just opened two field hospitals to relieve pressure on hospitals that are at capacity.
When asked whether she should at least consider a position with the Biden administration, Raimondo replied, “I feel a massive obligation to the people of Rhode Island.”