Hilary Levey Friedman, visiting assistant professor of education, is taking her advocacy experience and academic knowledge to a new stage as she runs for State Senate District 3. As a sociologist and a mother, Friedman champions after-school programs, education and equality.
Friedman said her approach to policy is rooted in anti-discrimation and pro-equity.“When I think about issues like housing, like education, like public safety and gun violence prevention, I see those as systemic and all interconnected,” she said. “We can try to deal with them separately, but really they’re all linked, so that’s how I approach legislation and think about representing this district.”
As the president of the R.I. chapter of the National Organization for Women from 2018 to 2021, Friedman was involved in legislative advocacy on anti-discrimination policies, like the Fair Pay Act, which requires that women and people of color are paid the same amount as men. This exposure allowed her to form many relationships with individuals in state government, she said. To her, running for state senator was a natural way to impact policy from another angle.
“It became the logical next step for me to think, ‘Okay, I’ve been advocating from this side. How do I think about being a champion for pieces of legislation from the other side?’” Friedman said.
Her platform focuses on after-school programs, caregiving, education, public safety and social justice. She is endorsed by the R.I. American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organization, the Service Employees International Union, Providence Fire Fighters, the RI Coalition Against Gun Violence, RI NOW and the Armenian National Committee of R.I. In addition, Moms Demand Action has labeled her a Gun Sense candidate, indicating that she is dedicated to preventing gun violence.
After-school programming is an especially important point of Friedman’s platform. She taught a first-year seminar and has written a book on the topic.
Hillary Salmons, founder and previous executive director of the Providence After School Alliance, was a guest speaker in Friedman’s course EDUC 0410G: “The Afterschool Hours.” Salmons said she was impressed by Friedman’s dedication and commitment to advocating for state funding for after school programs, and that she frequently saw Friedman testifying at the Rhode Island State House in support of after-school programming.
“The thing that excites me about her is that she understands policy, and she’s a big thinker … and is going to be a strong champion for state funding (of) after-school (programs),” Salmons said. “She gets ... that the economy and social justice are really rooted in meaningful, deep, enriching educational experience(s).”
Friedman’s dedication to creating better after-school programs also inspired students who took her course on the subject. Noah Rosenfeld ’24 took Friedman’s first-year seminar during the summer. Having grown up with dyslexia, Rosenfeld values the after-school support he received from parents and teachers. He recognized that other students may not have these opportunities, which drove him to learn more about how after-school time is spent for kids with learning disabilities. After receiving a lot of support from Friedman, Rosenfeld began working for her campaign through high traffic canvassing and volunteer recruitment.
“The after-school hours, and education in general, represent everything,” Rosenfeld said. “It’s the silver bullet of society, and I can’t imagine a better state senator than someone who has research experience and real-world experience with those issues.”
In addition to her focus on these programs, Friedman is dedicated to anti-discrimination and pro-equity and equality initiatives. Continuing this mission from her time as president of RI NOW, Friedman will also focus on issues such as gun safety, reproductive healthcare and climate change.
According to R.I. AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Patrick Crowley, Friedman’s platform and experience would help them move forward with their goal of having a net-zero emission economy by 2050.
“Her breadth of knowledge of the issues that matter to working people … would serve the district well,” Crowley said. “Hilary’s experience as an activist working with organized labor on successful campaigns is what set(s) her apart from the rest of the field.”
The RI NOW PAC also wrote in a press release endorsing Friedman that she will work effectively to “advance reproductive freedom ... promote economic justice ... end violence against women ... secure LGBTQ rights and ... end racism.”
Charles Bakst ’66, who was a longtime political columnist for the Providence Journal and a District 3 resident, acknowledged that the district is the wealthiest in the state. But he said he has seen a tradition of senators and representatives who genuinely care about issues that transcend those of the district’s alone. With this in mind, Bakst said he supports Friedman as a candidate because he believes she will continue that tradition.
“She’s demonstrated through her work now that she cares about some of these broader issues,” Bakst said. “It’s very important to have legislators representing us who have a much wider view of the world, as opposed to going up there and just saying ‘Well, what can I get for my district?’”