Raimondo on the cusp of a new stage

Posted 2/3/21

Gina Raimondo's upward trajectory was evident during her confirmation hearing in the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. She was politely peppered with questions on subjects ranging from salmon preservation in the Northwest to

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Raimondo on the cusp of a new stage


Gina Raimondo’s upward trajectory was evident during her confirmation hearing in the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. She was politely peppered with questions on subjects ranging from salmon preservation in the Northwest to regulating the internet and policing trade with China.

It was a whole different universe from Raimondo’s almost year-long focus on leading Rhode Island’s response to the pandemic. Barring a big surprise, it shows how she’s about to take a giant stride onto a national platform, with her final political destination still to be determined in future years. VP? Something else? We’ll have to wait and see.

Raimondo’s skill as a schmoozer/ace networker was evident in how many of the committee members referenced their pre-hearing conversations with her. The hearing itself was largely devoid of tough questions. Raimondo came across as well-prepped and knowledgeable, although Sen. Ted Cruz pressed her on topics like RI’s business climate and the XL Pipeline. (Karl Rove later sounded off in the Wall Street Journal, pointing to how Raimondo didn’t pledge to keep Huawei on banned entities list, and U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas called for the Senate to block the governor’s nomination.)

Yet the welcome mat put out by Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) – who closed the hearing by saying Raimondo would not be governor for long – seemed indicative of where things are headed. (The committee was still under GOP control, since a power-sharing agreement had not yet been worked out in the Senate.)

Raimondo’s on the precipice of the next rocket boost in her evolution, soon to be take over an agency with more than 46,000 employees, and impact on important topics encompassing jobs, foreign trade, the weather, oceans, and the counting of Americans in the decennial Census.

Got Census?

Census watch: with high stakes for Rhode Island, given the excepted loss of one of the state’s two congressional seats, the details are not now expected until April 30.

Domestic troubles

With U.S. Homeland Security warning about a growing threat from violent domestic extremists, Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha said he is not overly concerned about fallout in the Ocean State. While vigilance is required, “The good news is that in this part of the country we really haven’t seen much of that,” Neronha said on Political Roundtable on The Public’s Radio last week.

Safeguarding democracy

Asked about how to strengthen the guardrails of democracy that critics say were weakened during President Trump’s time in office, Neronha said: “Look, I think we just have to go back to a more rational conversation in the country that is anchored in truth. If we’ve lost anything in the four years, [it’s] that people can say anything without being tethered to the truth at all. And when you’re in government … it doesn’t matter whether you’re the president, the attorney general, in Congress, or in a local General Assembly – if what we say to the public can’t be taken as fact, that puts us in a very difficult place. When that guardrail of truth goes away, anything goes and I think that’s the place we’ve been for four years … When the president speaks something, Americans have to be able to take it as truth. They can disagree with it, obviously, but we’ve got to restore that confidence in government.”

Regunberg’s gambit

Back in 2018, Aaron Regunberg lost the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor to Dan McKee by just 2,466 votes. Now, the waters are muddied for 2022 since McKee is about to become governor and he’ll choose his own LG.

Meanwhile, the progressive movement that made significant legislative gains last year can be expected to rally around Regunberg. What’s more, the former Providence state rep said he raised $52,797 in the weeks after announcing in December that he was exploring another run for LG (bringing his campaign balance to almost $80,000).

“Of course, the dynamics of the 2022 election are all up in the air right now,” Regunberg said in a statement. “For now, I look forward to continuing this exploratory process – talking to neighbors, gathering ideas from communities across the state, and fighting for the changes we need to make Rhode Island a fair, healthy, and just home for all of us.”

Conservative Jonah Goldberg on how former President Trump is dividing the GOP, via an interview with NPR: “[T]he problem is that as it stands right now, demographically, at least across the country and in the sort of tipping point swing states like Arizona and Georgia, the Republican Party is – needs every conceivable Republican voter to stay to keep from being a minority party, a permanent minority party. And you shave off the 10 to 15 percent of Republicans who just are sick of the Trump stuff, you’re not going to make up for that with rural voters and others who only turn out when Trump is on the ticket anyway. So the Republican Party’s got a huge problem here. And it’s a very depressing one because it’s leading to the Republican Party making allowances for crazies – I mean, forget the racist arguments, just absolute crazy people – because they think they need them in their coalition.”

The GOP in RI

A trip to the Middle of Nowhere Diner in Exeter – a town where voters split almost evenly between Donald Trump and Joe Biden last November – elicited a range of views toward the contemporary Republican Party. RI GOP Chair Sue Cienki, House GOP Leader Blake Filippi and state Republican National Committeeman Steve Frias each offered different reasons for why a significant percentage of Republicans question the outcome in November, although none of them pointed to President Trump’s false narrative about a stolen election.

Frias said in part that Republicans need to keep the focus on local issues: “Because on state and local issues, we may find a majority of people will agree with us on one issue or another. So we have to focus on issues that we can get a majority of Rhode Islanders on, cause if you always focus on the national issues, Rhode Island is pretty much a liberal Democratic state and votes at the national level like a typical liberal Democratic state.”

Schilling, now and then

Sean McAdam on Curt Schilling, who fell short this week of winning induction to baseball’s Hall of Fame: “It’s my view that Schilling gets some sort of pleasure out of playing the martyr here. Each time he falls short, he gets to say: ‘See? I told you they were out to get me!’ I find that sad, and it reminds me somewhat of Pete Rose, whom I’m convinced prefers being the outcast, because that feeds into his narrative and, in some ways, allows him to monetize his ‘bad boy’ status. Despite some of his ugly remarks and behavior, I hope Schilling is elected next year. I’ll then hold my breath for his induction speech, and hope, perhaps against all evidence to the contrary, that the Curt Schilling I knew – boisterous, opinionated, caring – makes an unscheduled return.”

Ian Donnis is the political reporter for The Public’s Radio. He can be reached at For more of his coverage, visit and follow him on Twitter (@IanDon).

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