The 2022 election season is upon us. And if you have not yet noticed, there are a record number of LGBTQ+ candidates running for various seats in state and local elections. This unprecedented representation could set Rhode Island as an example of Queer representation in government for the rest of the country. So, what’s behind this progressive accomplishment? Options Magazine recently sat down with Ken Barber, founder and executive director of the Rhode Island Queer PAC.
The Rhode Island Queer Political Action Committee (RI Queer PAC) is an all-volunteer led committee dedicated to creating equitable representation in state and local government by supporting Queer, progressive candidates.
As an Army veteran and decades-lifelong activist, Barber and his team of like-minded organizers began building the political action committee more than a year ago, with its official launch taking place in March.
On having adequate LGBTQ+ representation in government, Barber is blunt: “We’re tired of fighting to get a seat at the table. We’re just going to bring our own damn chair.”
With the disheartening rollback of rights and protections in front of us, the PAC will ensure that anti-LGBTQ legislation happening federally doesn’t happen locally, Barber said. “But we need to have folks in office that will protect our community and write legislation that protects us.”
RI Queer PAC’s commitment is to educate and defend our community’s voting power and accessibility. It pledges support for candidates who embody four core values – equity, community, representation, and intersectionality.
Barber’s vision for RI Queer PAC is a more local approach to supporting candidates which he believes is more effective than national PACs. For now, the organization is run entirely by a volunteer staff, and all donations support the endorsed candidates’ campaigns. Offerings include training programs for candidates, canvassing events, and volunteer support.
In its first election cycle, RI Queer PAC’s Advisory Committee endorsed 14 Queer candidates running in various roles for state government. We introduce you to three of them who are vying to shake up Rhode Island’s political landscape by ousting long-standing incumbents.
Know Before You Vote: Election Information And Profiles Of RI Queer PAC Candidates
The 2022 election season is right around the corner. Queer votes and voices are essential to ensuring Rhode Island remain a safe and healthy place for the LGBTQ+ community.
Save The Date:
State Primary Election: SEPT. 13
State General Election: NOV. 8
A wealth of voter information and resources is available on the RI Queer PAC website. There you can also sign up to volunteer or contribute to the cause. Options Magazine also spoke to a few of RI Queer Pac's candidates, their profiles are below. RI Queer PAC has more information about their entire slate on their website.
RI Senate. District 1
The Rev. Dr. Donnie Anderson, of Providence, wears many hats—ordained minister, educator, counselor, and social activist. But the one that is most pressing these days is her primary run against Democratic incumbent Maryellen Goodwin for Senate District 1. Goodwin has held a senate seat for more than three decades.
Anderson has a multi-pronged campaign platform that includes:
individual choice--moral agency for individuals versus state
establishing meaningful term limits for state legislators
providing more transparency for the state grant process
It was, in fact, individual choice that prompted her to launch her campaign. “When the SCOTUS decision [overturning Roe v. Wade] came down on the 24th of June, it hit me in a way I can’t describe,” she noted. “I felt like I got run over by a bus, and I decided to run that morning.” Meanwhile, Goodwin was endorsed on August 19 by the anti-abortion group, Right to Life.
Anderson is passionate about how this impacts the Queer community. Her career has been dedicated to social justice from a faith perspective and enhanced by her life experience as a transgender woman.
“This is deeply personal for me because the issue of ‘pro-choice’ is the issue of moral agency. The state cannot be making these health decisions,” she exclaimed.
“Justice Thomas is going after our rights. It means children and adolescents will die,” she continued, referencing the high rate of adolescent suicide attempts and the extraordinarily high percentage of transgender youth represented within in that number.
RI House of Representative, District 14
Giona Picheco of Cranston, a U.S. Navy veteran now working in the software engineering industry, is running a primary campaign against Charlene Lima for State Representative in House District 14, serving Cranston and Providence.
Lima has held the role for 29 years, a fact Picheco believes provides more leverage for her campaign. For three decades, District 14 has had the same representation, and the conditions for working families have not improved, she contends. “Charlene doesn’t represent the values of the Democratic party,” Picheco said.
Currently canvassing across her district, Picheco, a transgender woman, says she has received an “overwhelmingly positive” reception. She credits that fact on a climate of change in which voters are more focused on issues than the gender of their representative. She never envisioned herself running for office, but changing attitudes now afford her the courage to run to make District 14 a better place for all its residents.
Making more investments in schools, roads and neighborhoods are table-stake topics for Picheco, but she is also laser-focused on broader issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community. “Queer people are often left out of the conversation,” Picheco remarked. “I hope to serve as a role model for others and to help elevate the voices of Queer people.”
Providence City Council Ward 5
Jackie Goldman, of Providence, is an overdose prevention researcher with a front-row seat to the challenges faced by residents of Ward 5. Daily at work, they witness the ravages of poverty and drug addiction that can lead to a cyclical spiral of homelessness and
incarceration. It is what motivates Goldman to represent their ward as Providence’s first non-binary City Councilor.
They are running against incumbent Jo-Ann Ryan, who has held the seat since 2004.
Goldman says that their experience--and those of residents of Ward 5—is too often council people “saying the right things but using power to work against those goals and working for corporations and special interest groups rather than for the citizens of Providence.”
Reception to Goldman’s campaign has been “very positive.” As they canvass the ward, Goldman finds that “residents are excited for someone young and not entrenched in government and the status quo.” And it helps that Goldman is proficient in the Spanish language.
Creating more low-income and affordable housing, repairing streets and sidewalks, and ending the state takeover of Providence Public Schools are just a few of the areas Goldman will focus on if elected to the council.
Goldman is proud to be a role model for the Queer community in Providence. Compared to cis, straight people, Queer people are more likely to be unhoused or unemployed. To help solve the crisis, Goldman would like to see an expansion of wrap-around services for marginalized communities. Haus of Codec, a provider of housing for transitioned youth, is an example of the solutions Goldman believes will make Providence a better place to live for the LGBTQ+ community.