Gina Raimondo unveiled the next phase in her campaign for governor by outlining a series of broad policy ideas -- emphasizing the economy, education, and infrastructure -- before a packed room of supporters Monday morning at Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket.
Raimondo was introduced by a string of speakers representing different slices of the electorate: state Senator Donna Nesselbush (D-Pawtucket), for gays and lesbians; state Representative Grace Diaz (D-Providence), for Latinos; a university politico for college students; Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Roberts, for women voters; and so on.
Raimondo offered a focus on the key issues of jobs, education, and infrastructure, while leaving details for how she would pay for some of her concepts to a later date. In an effort to cut into the support of rival Democrat Angel Taveras, the 42-year-old treasurer also emphasized her support for such measures as providing driver's licenses for undocumented workers and universal pre-K for four-year-olds. Raimondo's campaign called it a "progressive policy vision for Rhode Island."
Lingering labor discontent over the 2011 pension overhaul spearheaded by Raimondo could be seen in how dozens of unionized firefighters held signs outside the entrance to Hope Artiste Village.
Yet inside, Raimondo was in her element as she climbed on stage to speak to an enthusiastic group of more than 150 supporters, performing the time-honored ritual of a formal campaign announcement. It came a little less than a month after she used a video sent by email to confirm her gubernatorial aspirations.
To the delight of her audience, Raimondo emphasized themes of family, shared commitment, and overcoming Rhode Island's longstanding economic struggles. She defended the overhaul she spearheaded in 2011 of the state pension system -- although it remains disputed in court-ordered mediation -- as an example "that Rhode Islanders can come together to solve big problems."
Raimondo is a wildly successful campaign fundraiser (with more than $2 million in the bank) and she's received considerable flattering media attention in publications near and far. She nonetheless said the practice of running for office is "still somewhat new to me," while adding that her pension critics will eventually "realize they're not going to scare me from trying to do what's right."
Without mentioning the name of Governor Lincoln Chafee (who decided last year against seeking re-election), Raimondo called on the state "to start thinking big and bold, and it's time to change the tone at the top. We need a governor who sets a tone of urgency, focus and possibility as we turn this economy around."
A conversation with Gina Raimondo.
Here's some of what she offered in terms of policy ideas:
-- Reducing state regulation;
-- Create a job-matching program for recent college grads;
-- Matching workers receiving unemployment benefits with companies that offer job training;
-- Considering using social impact bonds to address social problems;
-- Establishing a funding stream for school construction and a funding formula for road and bridge improvements;
-- Banning assault weapons;
-- Increasing the minimum wage and indexing it with regular cost of living adjustments;
Taveras' campaign greeted Raimondo's announcement by asking again whether she will sign a "People's Pledge" to reduce the impact of super PAC money in the race. Raimondo has said she won't make a decision on that until the field for governor is settled. Clay Pell is expected to join the race later this month.
Voters will decide separate primaries for Democrats and Republicans in September.