If Biden Doesn’t run for a second term in 2024, Democrats will have an opportunity to redefine their image with a new leader — please don’t let it be a Democrat like Gina Raimondo.

By Adriel Hampton

President Joe Biden has only completed one year in office, but some pundits are already discussing who is most likely to replace him. If Biden runs for re-election, he’ll likely have most Democrats firmly behind him. 

gina raimondo

However, Democrats are less sure who they’ll back in 2024 if he passes on a second term.  Most of the focus would likely first turn to Vice President Kamala Harris. But other contenders could emerge and deserve a full airing.

Commentators have suggested that several who have previously run for president may try again, including Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Senator Amy Klobuchar. Governors including Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer, New Jersey’s Phil Murphy, and North Carolina’s Roy Cooper could also have a path to the nomination in a Biden-less race. 

But one potential candidate who has been floated in recent news stories is more perplexing and should give Democrats pause: Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.   

Raimondo’s record is littered with reasons Democrats should not take her seriously as a presidential candidate. As Governor of Rhode Island, she presided over state agencies that were rife with mismanagement, bungled court cases, and troubled corporate contracts. She was rightfully criticized for not doing enough to diversify senior government positions and her executive staff, in a state where the demographics of leadership has not kept pace with a changing population.

Raimondo’s record on abortion is also questionable for a Democrat. NARAL Pro-Choice America rated her a “mixed choice” and gave Rhode Island a failing grade for abortion access under her leadership. Feminist icon Gloria Steinem opposed Raimondo’s re-election in 2018.

Raimondo’s record in Rhode Island suggests she is more committed to corporate interests than to public welfare. She proposed copying Trump corporate tax breaks into state law. She touted the removal of almost a third of Rhode Island’s regulatory checks on corporate power.  At the height of the initial 2020 emergency, in response to a request from lobbyists, she granted legal immunity for COVID deaths to the corporations that owned nursing homes. She proposed to illegally cut state funding to low-income areas of Rhode Island during the pandemic, and proposed cutting the state Medicaid budget — and transferring a portion of the savings to insurance companies.

Before she became governor, Raimondo served as state treasurer. In that position, she handed over 14% of state pension fund investments — more than a billion dollars — to hedge funds whose owners actively opposed organized labor. This was a slap in the face of a unionized state workforce, which delighted the Koch Foundation-funded right-wing legal activist group ALEC. She invested state funds in her own venture capital firm, and in a firm that was fined by the SEC for making illegal campaign contributions. And she did all this while cutting benefits for beneficiaries. Labor unions actively opposed her nomination to be President Biden’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, which was ultimately withdrawn. 

Raimondo’s record of undercutting American workers has expanded during her time at the Commerce Department, which approved the sale of automotive semiconductor chips to Huawei, the Chinese company under U.S. sanctions. Meanwhile, due to the ongoing chip shortage, GM shut down five automotive plants for weeks this past summer, laying off thousands of manufacturing workers for weeks at a time — even as spiking demand for motor vehicles in a recovering economy could have supported significantly higher levels of production, and the well-paying jobs that come with it. 

And just last month, Raimondo came to the defense of Big Tech giants like Google and Apple in response to European Union actions to protect consumers from harmful Internet content. More than 20 pro-competition organizations noted that her remarks were in direct conflict with stated Biden administration policy against “abusive monopolies,” and Senator Warren wrote that the Secretary of Commerce should not “run interference” for U.S.-based multinational corporations. 

Raimondo has repeatedly put herself in situations that blurred the line between the public interest and her personal and campaign financial interests. Her venture capital firm invested in a company that later received a contract from a public agency led by her husband. Her business used her image for profit during the years she was in public office. And she delayed taking action for months after it was reported that she had received political contributions tied to Purdue Pharma, the manufacturers of OxyContin who knowingly profited from opioid addiction.  

Perhaps none of these actions taken in isolation is disqualifying. But as a whole, Raimondo’s record shows a pattern of favoring the interests of the financial and business sector (and herself) over the public welfare. America deserves leaders who understand that they are accountable to all the people, not just the wealthy. Should Biden choose to retire rather than seek a second term, the Democratic Party will have an opportunity to define its image by choosing a new standard-bearer. It would be a mistake for the Party to look to Raimondo. 

Adriel Hampton is a California-based digital strategist for progressive campaigns and causes. Adriel was the first person to run for Congress via Twitter, and, in 2020, briefly filed for California Governor to highlight Facebook’s fact-checking exemptions for political advertising.