More than 13 women running for public office in Rhode Island held a meet and greet on the lawn of the Rhode Island State House Saturday afternoon to reach out to the public for support, and to support each other in the upcoming midterm elections. Incumbent candidates present at the event included Senator Jeanine Calkin (Democrat, District 30, Warwick), Representative Camille Vella Wilkinson (Democrat, District 21, Warwick), Representative Moira Walsh (Democrat, District 3, Providence), Terri Cortvriend, presently Chair of the Portsmouth School Committee with 10 years on the committee, running for House District 72 (Portsmouth), and Linda Ujifusa from the Portsmouth Town Council.

At least nine women relatively new to politics also attended, including Shannon Donahue in Senate District 7 (Providence), Melanie DuPont in Senate District 22 (Smithfield, Johnston, North Providence), Jennifer Rourke in Senate District 29 (Warwick), Bridget Valverde in Senate District 35 (North Kingstown, Narragansett), Rebecca Kislak in House District 4 (Providence), Justine Caldwell in House District 30 (East Greenwich), Deya Garcia for Providence City Council Ward 8 and Katherine Kerwin for Providence City Council Ward 12.

With media reports that a record number of Democratic women are running for office in 2018 and a growing dissatisfaction among women voters with State House representation that does not seem to take their concerns seriously, many at the event predicted big changes next year.

“One of the biggest reasons we organized this event today was to show the women that are interested in running for office that there’s an incredible amount of support in Rhode Island for candidates like them,” said Representative Walsh. “We know that 70 percent of elected officials are men and we believe that women need a little bit more support and a little bit more convincing when it comes to running.”

“First of all, we are about bringing women into an equal relationship in the world and with men,” said Hilary Levey Friedman, president of the Rhode Island Chapter of the National Organization for Women (RI NOW). “So as part of that… we are about advancing reproductive freedom, promoting economic justice, ending violence against women in all forms, LGBTQ rights and ending racism.”

“There isn’t much out there for women that want to run for office,” said Capri Catanzaro, a University of Rhode Island (URI) student who ran Jeanine Calkin’s successful 2016 campaign for State Senate. “But… women do make a hell of a lot more of a difference when they are in office. Just running, even if you are not successful, it’s really encouraging to other women who might want to run because they say, ‘I could do that.'”

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Barry Schiller

I’m glad to see this, even if I may like some incumbent they may run against. I hope more will run, especially in North Providence where our Assembly delegation is all male and the only woman on the Town Council won’t seek re-election. For men bothered by the emphasis on women, think how we’d feel if almost all elected officials and candidates were women almost all the time and they were deciding on men’s health issues. (e.g. should insurance cover prostate cancer screenings!) RI has too many uncontested elections, which weakens democracy. Yet, having been a candidate I can say this is a relatively easy place to run. No filing fees, relatively small number of signatures (from registered voters of ANY political affiliation) no need for spending a lot of money, and even a Board of Elections quite willing to help first time candidates thru the filing and reporting system.… Read more »