Biden poised to tap Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo to lead Commerce Department

Raimondo is the first woman governor of Rhode Island, and has served in the role since her election in 2014. She was among the women considered to serve as Biden’s vice president, and has been praised for her leadership amid the coronavirus pandemic.

She is currently under quarantine after a close contact tested positive for Covid-19, but that is expected to end Friday. Like other nominees who are near Biden, she would have to test negative to be at any announcement event with him.

At the same time as commerce secretary, Biden is also planning to unveil leaders for the Labor Department and the Small Business Administration.

Biden is expected to tap Boston Mayor Marty Walsh as labor secretary, two sources familiar with the decision tell CNN. The President-elect is also expected to tap Isabel Guzman to lead the Small Business Administration, two sources familiar with the decision said.

Guzman is currently the Director of California’s Office of the Small Business Advocate, a government office that works to support and grow small businesses in America’s most populous state. Prior to taking over the state office, Guzman was the deputy chief of staff and senior adviser at the US Small Business Administration, the office she will now lead.

Biden sees the three posts of commerce secretary, small business administrator and labor secretary as a trio that will work together, a source familiar with the decision said, focused on the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus and combating economic inequality.

Biden is expected to lean on his commerce secretary to rebuild relationships with a business community that has had a sometimes fractured relationship with the Trump White House. While the Republican President has often touted support from different businesses, pro-business groups like the Chamber of Commerce have often been critical of Trump.

If confirmed by the Senate, Raimondo would be in charge of a department that oversees a wide range of programs, including the Decennial Census, NOAA Fisheries, the National Weather Service and the Foreign Commercial Service. In addition to working to promote job creation and economic growth across the country, the department oversees ocean and coastal navigation and helps negotiate bilateral trade agreements.

Prior to serving as governor, Raimondo was elected to serve as general treasurer of Rhode Island in 2010. She also co-founded Point Judith Capital, an early stage venture capital firm.

Raimondo was also a contender to be the nominee for Health and Human Services secretary, CNN previously reported, but Biden nominated California Attorney General Xavier Becerra for the post.
Before Biden announced Becerra as his pick, Raimondo said at a news conference that she would not be Biden’s HHS secretary and that her focus was on her duties in her home state. The New York Times reported earlier this month that labor unions helped block Raimondo from becoming Biden’s pick to lead HHS because of her record on pension changes.
Raimondo has spent much of her time as governor attempting to spur economic development and lower the state’s employment rate, according to The Boston Globe. She revamped the state’s economic development office and had state lawmakers approve programs that allowed for millions of dollars in tax incentives for companies that relocate to Rhode Island, according to the Globe.

Raimondo was the first governor to back New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s 2020 Democratic presidential bid and joined his campaign as a national co-chair. She later backed Biden’s presidential bid after Bloomberg dropped out of the race.

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Gregory Krieg, Arlette Saenz and Jessica Dean contributed to this report.

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