Saying that the office is “a professional job, not a political job,” Gina Raimondo is currently the only candidate to step forward to run for the job of General Treasurer.
And by framing the debate that way, she’s clearly playing to her strengths. Raimondo has no political experience in that she’s never held office or run a political campaign.
But it would be difficult to find someone with a more impressive professional resume than Raimondo. She graduated from La Salle Academy in 1989 as the class valedictorian.
From there, Raimondo went on an academic run that couldn’t be more prestigious. She did her undergraduate work at Harvard University, where she received her degree in economics and was recognized as the top economics student in the Class of 1993. Raimondo also holds a doctorate in sociology from Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes Scholar. And she has a law degree from Yale University.
“I have a law degree, but I’ve never practiced law. I decided to get into finance instead,” said Raimondo during an interview last week.
Raimondo worked in New York City early in her career, but chose to return to Rhode Island where she co-founded Point Judith Capital, a Providence-based investment company that invests in start-up companies in health care and information technology industries.
Raimondo frames that decision as a choice between Wall Street and Rhode Island in which she chose to return to her home state.
“I chose to start a business here in Rhode Island,” said Raimondo.
Under Raimondo’s leadership, Point Judith Capital grew to over $100 million in assets and helped grow over 20 businesses in Rhode Island. Raimondo specializes in investing seed capital in health care companies.
Raimondo, a Smithfield native, said she takes pride in the fact that Point Judith Capital has helped grow the Rhode Island economy.
It’s that desire, to see her home state do well, that she’s decided to run for Treasurer.
“I see this as a chance to best use my talents to give back to the community,” she said.
It won’t be the first time. Raimondo serves as Vice Chair of the board of Crossroads RI, the state’s largest homeless services organization, and she is also a trustee at Women & Infants’ Hospital. The Providence resident has also previously served on the boards of Family Service RI and La Salle Academy.
Raimondo talked very candidly about the need for campaign finance reform. She promised that as General Treasurer she wouldn’t direct any state business towards any vendors, consultants, or lawyers who had donated to her campaign coffers within the last two years.
That promise is roughly the basis of regulations currently being drawn up by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), but Raimondo said she’d follow them whether or not they were formally made regulations.
“Hopefully the SEC adopts those regulations, but even if they don’t, I plan to follow them,” said Raimondo.
“You can’t invest money based on who gave you campaign contributions. That’s not a smart way to do business.”
Raimondo said she’s an advocate of pension reform, saying that the current system is clearly not sustainable for the taxpayers.
“I can’t sit here and tell you I know what the answer is yet…either we have to reduce the benefit, or the employee contributions will have to be increased,” said Raimondo.
But she also called for people to tone down the rhetoric against state employees, arguing that the problems in the pension system are not the fault of the employees and that looking backwards will not solve problems.
“We need to tone down the rhetoric, look at the actual math, and decide what needs to be done,” said Raimondo.
Unlike Tom Sgorous, a progressive activist who at one point was her opponent, Raimondo didn’t say she was a proponent of re-amortizing the pension plan. Sgorous recently backed out, saying he thought Raimondo was a good candidate.
“Were the differences between my positions and Gina's more substantial, I would not hesitate to push forward with every ounce of energy I could muster,” said Sgorous in a blog post explaining his decision.
“But I have come to two conclusions. First, those differences are much too small for me in good conscience to ask people to join an aggressive campaign against her. Second, our state suffers from a shortage of advocates for sensible public policy. Rhode Island will be better served by having another advocate for smarter government in the arena with me than by having two of us battle it out in the primary.”
Although unopposed at the moment, Raimondo is gearing up for a challenge. She said she expects to raise at least $800,000 to raise her profile with Rhode Islanders.
“I’ve got quite a bit of work to do,” said Raimondo.
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