As a small business owner, Gina Raimondo knows how to manage finances. But when Representative Nicholas Mattiello first met her, it was her knowledge of food, family and finances that caught his attention.
The Speaker of the House first met the candidate for General Treasurer when she gave the Italian toast at the State House.
“Those are some of the most important things in life, and that speech just resonated with me. Gina knows what’s important,” Mattiello said. “She is hands down one of the most qualified candidates for elected office I have seen in a long time.”
Mattiello helped to host a forum for Raimondo last Wednesday in Cranston.
Raimondo has two children, and also runs Point Judith Capital, a venture capital fund that has worked with 25 companies representing 1,000 jobs. She has never run for office before, and said last week that the decision to throw her name into the ring was not an easy one.
“This isn’t a convenient choice for me, but now is not the time for easy choices. I am a mother of two young children who I would like to prosper in Rhode Island. It’s time to step up and serve,” she said.
Raimondo’s resume is impressive in terms of academics. A graduate of La Salle Academy, she went on to Harvard before becoming a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. From there, she landed at Yale Law School.
Still, she points to her humble beginnings as the motivation for running.
Raimondo spent Sunday afternoons in Smithfield learning to cook and speak Italian from her immigrant grandparents. Her family was close, but at the age of 58, her father was laid off from his job at a watch company, with three children at home hoping to finish college.
All three did, and Raimondo wants that for other Rhode Island families.
“That’s what drives me today,” she said. “My drive to serve is because I’ve lived through the experience of going without. I lived the scary times, and it’s time to help people get back on their feet and get Rhode Islanders back to work.”
Her plan to right the state’s economy is all about smart investments, she said. She understands why the pension debate is so heated, but believes there are solutions that do not have to be divisive. Banking for the state shouldn’t be about the biggest name, but about what institution makes the most sense.
“I want to use the power as the chief investment officer to lean on banks to invest again,” Raimondo explained. “If you want a million dollars of the state’s money, what are you going to do for the people of Rhode Island? That’s not politics – that’s just business - and that’s what I know.”
Another issue in Raimondo’s platform is a statewide financial empowerment program at schools and senior centers. She spoke about predatory lending and mortgages, and said there should be someone in the state to protect people. The best way to do that, she argues, is to arm Rhode Islanders with information.
“We have a lot of work to do in Rhode Island,” she said.
While many conservative candidates have spoken this election season about small government, Raimondo said she thinks the General Treasurer’s office doesn’t have to be the enemy.
“Government can be part of the solution, if it’s well run and not overly bureaucratic,” she said, adding that every dollar should be looked at. “I don’t plan to rubber stamp those checks.”
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