On Jump-Starting RI's Economy, Gina Raimondo Sounds A Lot Like ... Lincoln Chafee

Sep 12, 2013

Raimondo during a House Finance appearance earlier this year
Credit Ian Donnis / RIPR

If gubernatorial-candidate-in-waiting Gina Raimondo has bold ideas for sparking Rhode Island's economy, she's keeping them to herself. Instead, during a taping Thursday of RIPR's Political Roundtable, Raimondo sounded a lot like Rhode Island's current governor, Lincoln Chafee, in emphasizing a focus on improving the economic fundamentals.

"Let me tell you what companies want," Raimondo said, referencing her past experience in managing venture capital firm Point Judith Capital. "They want good infrastructure, they want skilled workforce, they want a transparent, honest effective government, and they want a regulatory scheme that's reasonable and not burdensome."

That's similar to what Chafee has emphasized at various times in reinforcing his support for a long-term approach to economic development. As he told me last October, for example, while announcing airport improvements at T.F. Green.

"I’d rather build the blocking and the tackling, and the basics of investing in infrastructure and education and workforce development. That’s what we’re here announcing right now. This is positive. This is what we should be doing — whether it’s the dredging or the TIGER grants or the freight rail improvements. This is going to pay off in the long term."

The similarity is striking given the disparity in standing between Raimondo, a rising star on the national political stage, and Chafee, an independent-turned-Democrat who recently decided to fold his campaign for re-election. Raimondo regularly polls as one of Rhode Island's most popular politicians, while Chafee has struggled to crack 30 percent in approval ratings conducted by Brown University.

Raimondo's remark came as part of an exchange when my colleague Scott MacKay asked her to identify two ways to jump-start Rhode Island's economy. She initially responded by saying the issue is "about leadership and the economy. People want good jobs, good schools, safe neighborhoods, period."

It could be that Raimondo is holding off until her upcoming campaign announcement to detail some specific economic ideas. Yet she steered clear of specifics after being repeatedly pressed during our interview. (Roundtable airs at 5:40 and 7:40 Friday morning. Our Bonus Q+A with Raimondo will air at 6:40 and 8:40 Friday morning.)

For the record, Raimondo says of a campaign for governor next year, "I haven't quite decided, but I am looking hard at it."