NORTH KINGSTOWN/NARRAGANSETT – A former member of the North Kingstown Town Council, Ellen Waxman, declared her candidacy for Rhode Island Senate District 36, (North Kingstown, Narragansett), citing the need to elect people who will bring “new ideas, new possibilities and new hope” at the state-level.
On her campaign website, Waxman, a Democrat, wrote that the state needed “open-minded leaders who can view issues through different lenses, who can make compromises for greater good”– something she promised to do.
“We need leaders who can mend the political divide, bring civility, and restore public trust,” she continued.
Some of the most pressing issues facing the district, according to Waxman, include government corruption, budget constraints, public education challenges, lack of affordable healthcare, business environment and the “unfair” property tax system.
Waxman, who has lived and worked in North Kingstown since 1997, first became involved in politics in 2012, when she successfully proposed legislation making Rhode Island the first state in the country to eliminate the sales tax on art. After that she sat on, and even founded, several North Kingstown boards and committees, before ultimately being elected to the town council in 2014 and serving two terms. While she received the most votes in 2016, she came in seventh in the 2018 election for town council, losing her seat by roughly .4 percent of the vote.
On Tuesday, Waxman said over email that, during her time on the town council from 2014 to 2018, she was made aware of the “flawed government processes and corrupt decision-making benefiting special interests over public good.”
“This is not right, and I am determined to see change,” she said. “At the time I also noticed that meeting materials and agendas were made public on short notice without sufficient time for review. This inspired me to propose state legislation requiring more advance notice for public meetings.”
The legislation passed in 2017, and Waxman said she hoped to build on that success, if elected to the State Senate.
“As your State Senator, I will devote time to strengthening the Open Meetings Act, because access to information and public participation in policymaking is fundamental to the democratic process,” she said.
Four years worth of experience in local government, Waxman said, has brought “knowledge and expertise,” preparing her for success as a State Senator.
“While in office I was devoted to protecting the interests of the public,” she said. “To be effective, there was a lot to understand, including details of the town budget, comprehensive plan, and government processes.”
During her time on the council, she voted on a $109 million dollar budget and adopted laws relating to the town’s property and affairs. And while serving on the council, she also sat on the Board of Directors for the Quonset Development Corporation (QDC), home to a 3,200-acre business park, and a deepwater port and airport, valued at $177 million dollars in total assets.
“This government experience has brought knowledge and expertise, uniquely preparing me for success as your next State Senator,” she said. “I’m in it for the right reasons: to make progress for public good, not personal gain.”
Waxman also said that, because she hasn’t made campaign promises to get endorsements or money, she is “not beholden to special interests and am free to vote my conscience for public good.”
Including Waxman, there are four candidates running for Senate District 36, all of whom declared their candidacy after long time incumbent Sen. James Sheehan announced that he would not be seeking reelection. Candidates for the senate seat include Waxman, former State Representative and North Kingstown Town Councilor Doreen Costa (R), former State Senate candidate Alana DiMario (D) and current Narragansett Town Council President Matthew Mannix (I). Waxman will face off against DiMario in the Sept. 8 Primary Election.
Waxman grew up in Massachusetts and went on to attend Roger Williams University and the University of Massachusetts, before ultimately moving to Rhode Island. In addition to her passion for photography, she said she enjoys gardening, boating and time at the seashore, especially with her family, friends and dog, Willa.
Since 1997, Waxman has owned Five Main, a fine art gallery in Wickford Village featuring original artwork by local and nationally known artists, photographers and jewelry designers.
She also created the Facebook group “Our Town: North Kingstown.” The group, which currently has more than 15,000 members, is dedicated to highlighting “all that’s wonderful about life [in North Kingstown],” while also giving residents a space to discuss local challenges, brainstorm solutions and share ideas for improvement, according to the Facebook page.
Waxman said that the creation of the group is reflective of her leadership style, which is “grounded in listening to my constituents and in creating a public dialog.”
“In 2014, I created a community Facebook group (now with 15K followers) to improve transparency, open communication, and promote civic pride,” she said. “If elected, I will use the forum as a vehicle to obtain input, keep the public informed, and communicate with my constituents.”
Waxman said that accountable governance was her “top priority.”
“Good government is my top priority,” Waxman said. “As your State Senator I will continue to promote opportunities for civic engagement, and champion values fundamental for good government: transparency, fair process, accountability and justice.”
On her website, she also said she would strive to “reduce the influence of special interest money [allowing] for fairer representation, while opening opportunities for more good people to run for office, and have a fair chance of being elected.”
Her campaign website also details other statewide issues Waxman would focus on, if elected, including the environment, education, healthcare, property tax reform, equal rights and gun violence.
As a State Senator, she said she would “lead initiatives that ensure clean water and clean air, preserve open space, and combat climate change.”
Additionally, she said that “robust funding for public education must remain a priority even in lean times,” adding that she would “advocate to ensure that every child has an equal opportunity for a high quality education.”
And if distance learning continues, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it would be “critical to guarantee that each child has access to the internet, a computer, educational materials and the required support for successful learning,” she added.
The state’s healthcare system, she continued, needed to be “more equitable and affordable so every Rhode Islander has access to preventive care, medications and treatment when they need it,” adding that she would support legislation to make sure everyone has access to affordable health care.
Reformation of the property tax system, Waxman said, was also necessary in order to be more fair and predictable.
Waxman said she would also advocate for equal rights, adding that she would advocate for public policy that is “inclusive and promotes equal rights and opportunities for all.”
Waxman also said that addressing gun violence was another part of her platform, specifically the “root causes,” which is the path to “long lasting public safety and wellness.”
She said “common sense gun reform” included closing loopholes with background checks, regulating military style weapons and less plea bargaining on the judicial level.
As the primary nears, Waxman said she was feeling “optimistic” about her chances of winning.
“I am very optimistic about my position,” she said. “I have government experience, I am well known in town with a large following, and I listen to my constituents.”
The Primary Election will be held on Sept. 8, and the General Election will take place on Nov. 3.