Metro

On leave from Brown, Libby Kimzey makes bid for the State House

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, September 6, 2012

 

Libby Kimzey, a former member of the class of 2009, is taking time off her studies at the University to run for the District 8 seat in the Rhode Island House of Representatives. In the Sept. 11 primary, she will vie for the Democratic nomination against incumbent Rep. Michael Tarro, D-Federal Hill, Olneyville and Valley, and John Lombardi. Because no Republicans or Independents are listed on the general election ballot, the winner of the primary will be the district’s next representative.

Kimzey, 23, moved to Providence in 2005 to attend Brown, and she is currently leading both candidates in campaign endorsements with support from Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and at least 14 other interest groups, community organizations and labor unions. 

Some of Kimzey’s endorsements come from previous employers and organizations where she volunteered as a lobbyist. She began lobbying in her free time for fair elections as a member of student group Democracy Matters as a student at Brown. 

Tarro, 49, and Lombardi, 60, have both emphasized their lifelong residency in the district in their appeals to voters­. Tarro has completed one term representing District 8. Lombardi has spent 26 years on the Providence City Council – also briefly serving as the council’s president – and was acting mayor for four months after former mayor Vincent Cianci Jr. resigned in 2002.

 Kimzey said her commitment as a full-time student was a major disadvantage when trying to compete with full-time lobbyists. “Industries had their lobbyists (at the State House) every day of the week,” she said. “It wouldn’t be effective if we went once every other week.”

 Kimzey has taken leave from her studies at Brown three times, twice to volunteer and work full time for election ethics group Common Cause and local progressive organization Ocean State Action. She now manages an income tax assistance program and offers financial coaching for low-income clients at the Capital Good Fund.

Kimzey joined her opponents in a forum organized by the West Broadway Neighborhood Association Tuesday. A member of the association, Kimzey moved to the West Broadway neighborhood – the hub of many of the organizations for which she volunteers – last year.

“I didn’t believe I’d be here a year later as a candidate,” she said in her opening address to attendees.

Before declaring her candidacy, Kimzey began a search to fill the District 8 seat after former state Rep. Steven Consantino vacated the position in 2010, Kimzey told The Herald. Specifically, she was looking for a candidate who she believed held favorable positions on taxes, same-sex marriage and mass transit, she said. “I tried to find someone, and I couldn’t find the right person,” Kimzey said.

Tarro has not improved upon Constantino’s policies, Kimzey said. She noted that both of her opponents hold conservative positions on abortion rights and gay marriage. Kimzey, who is more liberal, has received endorsements from Marriage Equality Rhode Island, as well as local chapters of Planned Parenthood and the National Organization for Women.

Neither Lombardi nor Tarro denied support for same-sex marriage at Tuesday’s forum. “It’s gonna happen,” Tarro said, adding that he expects a bill legalizing same-sex marriage will pass soon, even if the composition of the Rhode Island General Assembly does not change in the next election. In the past, Tarro has said that he would work to approximate marriage for same-sex couples but vote against legalizing same-sex marriage in full.

At the forum, Kimzey said her decision to run was also influenced by a need to remedy the General Assembly’s poor treatment of the budget in the last three years, including $64 million in spending cuts, which has contributed to school closings and sharp service reductions by the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority.

“We’re at a crisis point,” Kimzey said of the state of the bus system, which she said could stop completely by March if the General Assembly does not take immediate action to resolve RIPTA’s $8 million debt. “We got to this point because the General Assembly puts everything to the last minute,” she added. 

At Tuesday’s event, Tarro said Kimzey’s accusations toward the General Assembly were taken “a little too far,” noting that last year’s reforms to the state pension system freed up a significant amount of funds to be reallocated to struggling programs like public transportation.

Tarro has frequently commented on the fact that Kimzey has not completed her undergraduate education, she told The Herald. But Kimzey said voters with whom she has spoken have proven indifferent about her choice to postpone graduation. 

“I’m not embarrassed about the decisions I’ve made,” she said, adding that she remains in good academic standing at Brown and plans to return to earn her degree if the University will accommodate part-time students. “I’m very candid with voters, and it isn’t an issue.”

  • Libby Kimzey

    Hi there,
    Morgan, thanks for the write-up. I’d like to offer a few corrections to the piece.
    I moved to the neighborhood in late 2010. In the forum I referenced that I’d been in my current apartment for one year, and also that one year ago Mayor Angel Taveras spoke to our neighborhood association about the fiscal crisis the City faced, and the very real threat of bankruptcy.
    I am 24 years old. Before Michael Tarro, the seat was held by Steven Costantino.
    To my knowledge Representative Tarro has only commented once on my incomplete Bachelor’s degree, but that was to a Providence Journal reporter.
    The $64 million number I referred to is the amount of money that Rhode Island has cut to Providence since 2009. I link that to severe cuts in city services, including that we have about sixty fewer patrol officers in our police department, and my neighborhood has been disproportionately hurt by the closings and shufflings of elementary and middle schools. My number one priority is to restore state funding to Providence, and I criticize General Assembly leadership for letting the situation get as dire as it is.
    If anyone is interested in volunteering with us on the final five days of this election, please email or call – libbykimzey@gmail.com and (401) 595 1807.
    Thank you!

  • Not a carpet-bagger

    Seems like Libby’s answers to everything are to spend more money- exactly what the Democrats have done for the 70 years of one party rule that got us to this point of self-destruction. The fact that she has union support is telling as well- they’ll have another yes vote for their gold-plated pensions and benefits, while working people go underwater on their mortgages paying for it.

    At the end of the day, though, as the article noted whoever wins the primary wins the seat. Meaning no matter who wins, we all lose.