Raimondo: Clinton needs to change the subject from emails

Speaking at DC event, gov also discusses how she likes her job and her political future

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Gov. Gina Raimondo, speaking for herself and many other Hillary Clinton supporters ahead of the first Democratic presidential debate, said Tuesday the former first lady needs to change the subject from the controversy over her private email server.

“She needs to talk about the issues,” Raimondo said while speaking at a Fortune magazine event in Washington, D.C. “We need to talk about something other than emails, and get her ideas out and get her solutions out and get her plans out.”

“I’m confident that once that discussion begins to happen she will shine and the campaign will go from there,” Raimondo added.

Raimondo has been a staunch Clinton supporter since well before the former secretary of state formally launched her campaign – even though one of Clinton’s opponents is Raimondo’s predecessor, Lincoln Chafee, who has never been fond of either woman. Raimondo, the first female governor of Rhode Island, said earlier this year she thinks it’s time to “put a mom in the White House.”

Clinton visited Rhode Island last October to headline a rally for Raimondo’s gubernatorial campaign, and Raimondo introduced Clinton when she came to Rhode Island earlier this year for a private fundraiser at longtime Clinton ally Mark Weiner’s home in East Greenwich.

Raimondo’s comments Tuesday came at Fortune magazine’s two-day 2015 Most Powerful Women Summit, where she was interviewed for roughly 10 minutes by Pattie Sellers, a senior editor at large there. Other speakers at the event include Michelle Obama, Megyn Kelly, Ivanka Trump and Warren Buffett.

Sellers said Raimondo was “kind of a last-minute” addition to the speaking roster after the pair were recently introduced. Raimondo has been the subject of two positive articles in Fortune over the last month that highlighted her transition from venture capital to the State House. Earlier this year she spoke at another panel in Washington, this one organized by Politico.

Raimondo’s comments would have been familiar to anyone who has followed her career, particularly a series of questions focusing on her role in crafting the 2011 pension overhaul (“math, not politics,” she said once again). The event also gave Raimondo an opportunity to pitch Rhode Island – and herself – to a sizable crowd of Acela Corridor movers and shakers.

“I want Rhode Island to be the place of choice for businesses, and the only way that’s going to happen is if we keep our cost structure low and if we have talent,” Raimondo said. “So that’s my overall strategy.”

While there was no mention of Raimondo’s stalled transportation funding plan, the governor did note her successful effort to push through a suite of cost-saving changes to Medicaid, the health program that now consumes roughly one-third of the state budget. She described that effort as similar to the pension law.

“Upset the apple cart again, but we got it done,” Raimondo said. “Rhode Island is moving away from fee-for-service. We’re paying for value, not volume.”

Asked to compare being in politics to being in business, Raimondo said she’s found similarities in the need for a strategy and a good team, but also “unbelievable differences.”

“There’s not enough accountability in government – that’s one of the things I’m working hard to bring to government, measuring outcomes, are you getting your money’s worth, more accountability,” she said.

Raimondo, 44, also said the heavy public scrutiny that comes with being governor has taken some getting used to. “Every mistake is public, every move you make is public, and you just have to learn to maneuver around that,” she said.

Overall, she added, “I have loved it,” describing the job as “very gratifying.”

Asked whether she sees herself staying in politics for a long time or going back into the business world after she leaves the governor’s office, Raimondo mostly demurred, noting she’s only 10 months into her first term.

“Right now I’m consumed seven days a week with making Rhode Island’s economy more vibrant, making our government work, in many ways fixing dysfunctional departments of government,” she said.

“The honest answer is, I don’t know,” she said, adding: “I’m focused on this right now and we’ll see where it goes. I have no particular political plan. I mean, I ran for office because I saw a need in Rhode Island, and we’re getting things done, and where that leads, I don’t know.”

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He hosts Executive Suite and writes The Saturday Morning Post. Follow him on Twitter: @tednesi

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