Moira Walsh, a 26-year-old former waitress and labor organizer, won a seat in the Rhode Island General Assembly as representative of District 3. Walsh was born and raised in the Smith Hill neighborhood of Providence and grew up working in her family’s store. In many ways, Walsh’s story is that of an underdog. Inspired by her work as a waitress working overtime to make ends meet, Walsh centered her platform on workers’ rights and minimum wage increases, looking to support the approximately 22,000 workers who rely on the tipped minimum wage for income. Walsh’s dedication paid off and paved her path to the state legislature. The September 2016 primaries pitted Walsh against Thomas Palangio, an incumbent state representative who had served seven non-consecutive terms. While Palangio’s campaign budget and political experience gave him the edge on paper, Walsh ran a grassroots campaign and secured victories in the primary and then the general election. Walsh focused on neighborhood fundraisers to create a sense of trust between herself and the community she sought to represent.
“I think my constituents are going to be really excited to turn over a new leaf. We’ve had people going to jail as legislators. I will be really proud if I can prove to my community that I am going to try really hard to give our city a better reputation,” Walsh said in an interview for The Atlantic.
Walsh is excited to enter the state legislative, looking to work beyond legislation alone. She conducts monthly community meetings and keeps her constituents informed on how to contact her with their concerns. In short, Walsh is bringing a sense of neighborly care to Rhode Island politics, one that has been missing for quite some time.