NORTH KINGSTOWN — Sen. Bridget Valverde (D-Dist. 35 — East Greenwich, North Kingstown, South Kingstown, Narragansett) is hoping to extend her stay on Smith Hill.
While she’s proud of everything she’s been able to accomplish during her first term in office, Valverde said there’s a lot more work to be done.
“Two years seems like a long time, but it’s incredibly short — especially when we’re only in session six months out of the year,” she said. “I still have a lot more that I want to accomplish.”
For voters who may be new to the district or aren’t sure about where she stands on key issues, Valverde has spoken and voted in favor of strong public education, gun safety legislation, expanding access to healthcare and working against climate change.
Valverde helped sponsor the Right to Read Act, which will train teachers in scientific reading instruction and could “help our kids become stronger readers earlier, and better intervene when a child is having issues learning to read.”
As a candidate, she has voiced her support for fully funding schools in a more equitable way. Quality education should not be reliant upon your zip code, she said, and Rhode Island is overly reliant on property taxes for school funding.
At the Statehouse, Valverde has co-sponsored legislation to limit magazine capacity to 10 rounds and ban 3-D printed and ghost guns, and voted in support expanding telehealth during the pandemic to open up access to care.
The North Kingstown resident has also served on the Senate Committee on Health & Human Services and Committee on Environment & Agriculture, and is a member of the Senate Task Force on Fisheries.
When asked about her accomplishments in office over the past two years, however, Valverde said her biggest was helping to pass the Reproductive Privacy Act in 2019.
“That was the bill that first got me to take notice of what my former senators’ views were,” she said. “It really got me involved in the legislative process and ultimately helped me decide to run for office.”
While there were a number of contributing factors that pushed Valverde to run for public office, she also credits her involvement with the Rhode Island Democratic Women’s Caucus and other groups for helping her get involved in local government. The Connecticut native said she’s always been politically involved, but following the last presidential election she also started tuning into local issues.
“I was encouraging so many women to run for office and trying to give them support,” Valverde said. “And then I realized that I could also run for office, and that I should.”
When asked about how she keeps up with local issues and hears the issues and concerns of four separate communities — in a district that encompasses most of East Greenwich, the western corner of North Kingstown, neighborhoods along Narrow River in South Kingstown and the southern half of Narragansett — Valverde said it’s key to leave lines of communication open.
“It’s a challenge to stay on top of what’s happening in four different towns, but I pride myself on being accessible,” Valverde said. “The number that’s listed on my website is my Google Voice number that rings on my cell phone. I answer my phone and I answer emails from constituents as quickly as I can.”
She can also be reached on various social media platforms, and said she’s always open to hearing issues and suggestions from her constituents. In order “to stay up on what’s happening in each municipality,” Valverde said she also keeps in touch with town council and school committee officials.
When asked what she believes is the biggest issue facing Rhode Islanders today, Valverde said the COVID-19 crisis has undoubtedly impacted everyone in the state and caused economic hardship for many families and local businesses.
“It’s transformational, and not for the better,” Valverde said. “We are in the middle of a health crisis. So many Rhode Islanders are hurting and I don’t think we have even seen the worst of it yet.”
“I’m not saying ‘the worst of it’ from a health perspective, but the worst of it from an economic fallout,” she added.
In a way, Rhode Island has been lucky because unemployment insurance rates are fairly high compared to other parts of the country, she said, “but obviously these things run out and it’s not enough to live on.”
“I would like to see us, as a state, make some investments in infrastructure,” Valverde said. “Especially in the green energy sector. We have a unique opportunity here to put tens of thousands of Rhode Islanders back to work, and build up that renewable energy infrastructure and start some climate resiliency projects.”
This year, Valverde will be challenged for her seat in the senate by Charles Callanan of East Greenwich, though she believes voters will see how hard she’s worked to represent their needs and issues.
“I’m just getting started and I have a lot more work to do,” she said. “I think my policy positions are great for people. They’re good for Rhode Islanders, they’re good for the environment.”