Updated: Oct 15, 2021
On Jan. 7, President Joe Biden nominated Democrat Gina Raimondo to become the next U.S. Secretary of Commerce. The former Rhode Island governor and venture capitalist was confirmed on March 2 by an 84-15 vote.
Raimondo now heads the United States Department of Commerce, responsible for the nation’s economic growth and the provision of employment possibilities for citizens. The DOC supports American and overseas businesses, enforces fair business laws, promotes new technologies and innovation that benefits the economy, regulates U.S. exports and foreign investments, gathers demographic and economic data, and ensures the safety of the country’s “interconnected global networks, and the devices and data connected to those networks.”
Before nominating Raimondo, Biden considered several other prominent names for the commerce secretary role. Republican and former CEO of eBay Meg Whitman, and Democrats Mellody Hobson, the president and co-CEO of Ariel Investments and Visiting professor at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government Terry Mcauliffe, were all considered.
During his cabinet introduction speech, Biden praised Raimondo for remembering “where she came from” and being an “effective forward-thinking governor.” Near the end of his announcement, Biden revealed that he hopes Secretary Raimondo will help “position the U.S. as a global leader in the 21st-century clean energy economy.”
The daughter of a World War II Navy veteran Raimondo, 49, was raised in Smithfield, Rhode Island, in a “tight-knit Italian-American family.” Her grandfather studied English in the Providence Public Library after immigrating from Italy at the age of 14. Raimondo’s father was also the “first in his family to attend college on the GI Bill.” The commerce secretary’s “childhood experiences shaped her core beliefs in hard work, opportunity for all, and the importance of financial security.”
Raimondo was the valedictorian of LaSalle Academy in Providence. She later graduated from Harvard University as her class’s top economic student. Then, she attended Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship, where she earned a doctorate, after which she graduated from Yale Law School.
Raimondo married Andrew Moffit in 2001; their children are Cecilia and Thompson.
After graduating from law school, Raimondo clerked for U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood and founded and led Massachusetts venture capitalist firm Village Venturers as senior vice president.
Later on, she founded another venture capitalist firm, Point Judith Capital, and was involved in several other organizations, including Women and Infants Hospital, Crossroads Rhode Island, Family Service of Rhode Island, Business Innovation Factory, and LaSalle Academy.
Raimondo’s first public office run was inspired by “a news article in late 2009 about further cuts to public libraries due to state budget difficulties.” In 2010, she was the second woman elected to be general treasurer of Rhode Island, and in 2014, she was the first woman elected as governor of Rhode Island. She also served as the chair of the Democratic Governors Association in 2019.
When she held office as governor, Raimondo “kick-started the state’s economy and made record investments in infrastructure, education, and job training.” She created a workforce development program for minority-owned and women-owned businesses and prioritized increasing employment for local workers.
Former Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was regarded by several DOC officials as “a mess” because he maintained “financial connections — while overseeing U.S. trade — to companies tied to Russia and China” and left the DOC directionless. As the department’s new head, Raimondo has to ensure that Commerce descends from “its apex of dysfunction under” Ross.
During an interview for MSNBC, Secretary Raimondo revealed that her first order of business is to get “Americans back to work.” She described the country’s economic situation, talked about struggling small businesses and women, and emphasized broadband importance. “We can lead; we’re well-positioned to take the lead on broadband, especially getting money out to rural communities, tribal communities so that everybody’s connected,” Raimondo said.
Raimondo also voiced her interest in holding businesses accountable toward workers and mentioned that she supports the American Rescue Plan, noting that it “recognizes the magnitude of people’s struggles.” In terms of addressing U.S.-China relations, Raimondo said that the U.S. would use entities to defend itself from China if it threatens America’s economic and national security. She also posed an idea of “investing in research and development in America” to strengthen the U.S.’s “forefront.”
Raimondo ended the interview with a statement about what Americans should expect from her. “I believe in America; I believe we can rebuild this economy. I believe we’re going to rebuild this from the bottom up, and it’s an exciting opportunity to rebuild, bringing everyone along,” she said.