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What Hillary Clinton can learn from Rhode Island’s first female governor

Rhode Island Governor Gina RaimondoRhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo
Rhode Island Governor Gina RaimondoPhotograph by Stuart Isett

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo—the first woman to hold the position there—isn’t one to tip-toe around an issue.

The former venture capitalist first ran for treasurer of the Ocean State and won in 2010 after hearing that budget cuts were threatening local libraries. She then became convinced that Rhode Island’s pension system (the second-worst funded in the nation, after Illinois) was in deep need of an overhaul and took that on as well.

Although she did a lot of things voters didn’t like—including cutting cost-of-living increases for public employees and increasing their retirement age—she was elected governor this past January.

What was her secret to staying on her electorate’s good side despite these tough calls? “Just being honest with people,” she told Fortune’s Pattie Sellers at the annual Most Powerful Women Summit in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday.

“So many people would say to me, ‘I don’t like you and I don’t like what you’re saying, but I trust you.'” Raimondo recalled.

For Democratic Presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton, trust is a weak spot: Only 32% of voters see her as honest and trustworthy, according to a CBS News /New York Times poll last month. Raimondo—the first Democratic governor in Rhode Island in over 20 years—is a Clinton supporter and believes the best thing the former Secretary of State can do is to emulate her policy of openness.

During tonight’s Democratic primary debate, “[Clinton] needs to talk about the issues,” Raimondo said. “We need to talk about something other than emails,” she added, referring to the the scandal that has been dogging Clinton’s campaign for months now.

As for her own ambitions, Raimondo said she has no particular plans after her governorship term ends. But whether it’s going back to her previous life in VC or staying in politics, she is a woman worth keeping tabs on.

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