NARRAGANSETT — Gina Giramma, a civics teacher at a local high school, is challenging fellow democrat and incumbent Teresa Tanzi in the race for Rhode Island Representative District 34 (Narragansett, South Kingstown) this year. Giramma said she is seeking the position in an effort to restore respect for elected officials, as well as faith in the political process.
“The lack of transparency is my number one issue,” she said. “I have filed Open Meetings Act complaints in the past for things that should just be transparent. I think we can go a long way to respecting our political process if we can all be honest and open.”
Giramma received her bachelor’s degree in political science from American University in Washington, DC. Living in Italy and traveling through Europe as much as possible in the three years after, Giramma went on to teach social studies upon her subsequent return to Rhode Island before earning a master’s degree in special education from Framingham University. She has taught social studies at a local high school for 12 years and counting.
For the District 34 challenger and single mother of five, family also played a large role in carving out values and means of approaching issues and enacting solutions.
“I take every experience I have into account as part of my life plan,” said Giramma. “I have always said what I mean and meant what I said, and this too is part of that plan. Raising a family of five on a teacher salary has its challenges. I find that I am a very creative thinker, and as such I have always made things work. I like to listen to others and take stock in their ideas. I believe in the art of compromise and making difficult choices for the greater good.”
At 15, Giramma was introduced to the art of policy making and collaborative compromise and “fell in love” with the process. At 16, she joined her first political campaign.
When asked how she would approach the elected position and what she would do differently than the incumbent Tanzi, Giramma said, “I would always take into consideration the needs of the people,” she said. “As such I would be listening to the people I represent. I would submit bills to improve our everyday lives. I know how to work in committee and collaborative groups. Between my work and volunteer experiences I have successfully been a member of hundreds of committees to create solutions for the groups assigned.”
“I understand the way to achieve one’s goals in government,” Giramma continued. “My first professional job was four months working in the United States Senate in the office for Senator John Chafee. I learned first hand how politics work and how to make governance effective through the political process. Leadership in the state has been volatile for several years. In ten years, I would hope that I would make my way up the leadership ladder, by being an effective legislator. I practice civic discourse and the art of compromise like no other. I am a fighter, and as such I don’t give up until I reach my desired goal.”
When asked how she would fight the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigate its economic impact if elected, Giramma said science and safety would come first while stressing that would simultaneously work to ensure small businesses disproportionately affected by the health crisis received government assistance to minimize the financial burden and stay afloat.
“I believe in science and as such I believe we should look at the data and follow the science,” she said. “I believe that we should not open schools just to save the economy. I believe kids should be in school as soon as it is safe for students and staff alike. I would work in the capacity as a member of the general assembly to see that the small businesses; that have disproportionately been adversely affected by this pandemic get the aid they need to stay in business. I would do what I can to create a new information campaign to support our local business more and reduce the amount of big box business. This can include some incentives for consumers to buy local. I would look to the communities that have successfully mitigated the spread of COVID-19 and move to adopt such measures.”
Giramma believes systemic racism is a problem in America, and stated she has worked her whole life to fight against such injustices. In fact, if elected, Giramma’s first piece of submitted legislation would work to address such issues.
“I became an advocate and activist early in my life,” she said. “Marching on Washington several times, signing petitions, striking, protesting, etc. I am a true fighter of all injustices. Racism has historical systemic roots in our nation, unlike racism in other countries. I have been doing all that I can in my classroom to teach and open my students’ eyes to the world of racial injustice. My experiences with ‘Priscilla’s Story’ through the Gilder Lehrman Center at Yale University was just one of the first of many initiatives I took. I believe the end of our nations’ ugly past with racism can be painfully removed with a simple step. Removing the race classification from all federal and state forms. We are after all just one race - human. I will submit my first bill in the General Assembly to reflect this sentiment.”
On the Second Amendment, Giramma said she sees both sides of the debate around gun control while noting her own “limited experiences” on the topic.
“I have read much about the debate, and even led several in my own classes,” she said. “I believe I am a true centrist on the issue. I believe the 2nd Amendment should not be abolished. I believe in sensible gun (control) legislation at both the state and federal level needs to be asserted. I would support bills requiring registration and education for gun owners. I believe strong background checks are necessary and should be more stringent in light of the explosion of mental illness.”
As for local issues, Giramma said she supports the Town Farm Park land transfer being discussed in South Kingstown.
“I am a huge supporter of our hospital as it is a major important support to our community,” said Giramma when asked what the most viable solution was to the lack of parking at South County Hospital. “We live in a time where the need for quick convenient access to health care is essential. I have been late for appointments and procedures due to the lack of parking, so I understand first hand how important an issue this is. I support the proposed land swap compromise that is in the works. I know that recreational space is also so important, so it is important to maintain all public spaces and uses. To be honest, at the current time, that field is very underused and a swap could be a win for all if the new location is developed properly. Hundreds of employees have to park there every day. If we want our health care system to grow, we need to solve this problem now.”
On the Narragansett end, Giramma came down firmly on the side of library advocates in the town’s recent debate over a new library project in the Pier Marketplace.
“I have supported the move to the former Belmont location since 2016 when it was first proposed and made public,” she said. “I trust the professionals who make recommendations and I trust the vetting process that this went through. I have attended the marches and rallies to show my support. I love my library so much I started working there again last fall. I would like to restore respect to the library as well.”
“I have been a library supporter my whole life, literally,” Giramma continued. “I worked at the library in 1991 and 1992. I supported the expansion and growth of the addition in the mid 90’s. All my children attended the preschool story times, and summer reading programs. I have advocated for better relationships with the town, in as much as, sometimes the employees are not town employees and sometimes they are. You can’t have it both ways. The library employees do not get the benefit of other town employees, specifically a pension. This is why it has been so difficult keeping a children’s librarian [in Narragansett]. Treat a professional like a professional, and they will give back what is needed, but treat them like second-class employees and it becomes a thorn in everyone’s side.”