PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — State Sen. Gayle Goldin announced Tuesday she has resigned her seat representing Providence to take a job with the Biden administration.
Goldin sent a resignation letter to Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio on Tuesday morning, effective immediately. A Democrat, she has represented Senate District 3 on the East Side since 2012.
“Only 59 women have served in the Rhode Island Senate in our state’s history,” Goldin wrote. “It has been the honor of a lifetime to be one of them.” Her accomplishments in the Senate included helping to create the Temporary Caregiver Insurance program and passing a statute enshrining the right to abortion.
Goldin said she has accepted a position as senior adviser in the U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau, where she said she will work on “investing in policies that recognize the value of caregiving and eliminate discriminatory practices.” She previously worked as a campaign advisor for the group Family Values @ Work, which promotes paid family and medical leave.
Senate President Dominick Ruggerio said Goldin “leaves an indelible mark on our state,” adding, “The Biden administration is gaining a dedicated and passionate public servant.”
Goldin’s resignation will trigger a special election in Senate District 3.
At least one candidate — Hilary Levey Friedman, president of the Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization for Women — had already announced she was considering a run as rumors swirled about the senator’s possible departure. She has stockpiled about $27,000 in her campaign account so far.
In a statement Tuesday morning, Levey Friedman confirmed she will seek the Democratic nomination to succeed Goldin, saying her top priorities in the Senate would be education, public safety, and climate change.
“I have heard so much about the division that exists in our politics today,” Levey Friedman said. “It is important to have a leader who can help build the bridges we need to address the policy issues facing our state.”
Hours later, a second Democrat threw her hat into the ring: Geena Pham, a Dartmouth schoolteacher who her campaign said would be the first Asian-American in the General Assembly. She is running with the support of the Rhode Island Political Cooperative, a progressive group that opposes Senate Democratic leadership.
“I am running because I see my students graduating into a world where everyday people struggle to afford housing, breathe clean air, drink clean water, and find their children quality education,” Pham said, adding, “We must build a state where ‘liberty and justice’ extends to all Rhode Islanders.”
Just last month, Goldin reappointed five people to District 3’s Democratic Senatorial District Committee, which will decide who gets the Democratic Party endorsement in the primary for her seat: state Rep. Edie Ajello; Rachel Colaiace, an official at the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island; former state Rep. Linda Kushner; attorney Jeff Levy, also Goldin’s husband; and former state Sen. Myrth York.
Jessica Holden Sherwood, who briefly considered running for the seat in 2012 but bowed out when Goldin entered the race, told 12 News she will not be a candidate this time around.
City Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune, who is widely expected to run for Providence mayor next year, wouldn’t say directly whether she would consider a run for the Senate seat but told 12 News, “My focus is on the city of Providence.” She added, “I want to have a direct impact on my city.”
Goldin’s decision also means she will not be a candidate next year for Rhode Island secretary of state, a race she had been considering whether to enter. Another lawmaker — state Rep. Gregg Amore, D-East Providence — confirmed he is tentatively planning to kick off his campaign for the job Sept. 15.
Ted Nesi (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook
Steph Machado contributed to this report.