Marcia Ranglin-Vassell was elected to the Rhode Island General Assembly in Providence, unseating Democratic Majority Leader John DeSimone in a stunning political upset. A 56-year-old newcomer to politics, Ranglin-Vassell hails from Jamaica, where she and her eight siblings were raised by their mother who sold produce to finance their educations. Ranglin-Vassell came to Rhode Island in 1990 and started out working factory jobs and cleaning houses. After earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Ranglin-Vassell founded a nonprofit that provided educational resources and clothing to children in Jamaica and was a teacher in Providence public schools before running for office.
In the September 2016 primaries, Ranglin-Vassell received 50.6 percent of the vote, while incumbent John DeSimone received 49.4 percent. DeSimone later launched a write-in campaign, spending over $35,000 in his bid for the seat. Nevertheless, Ranglin-Vassell was able to defeat both DeSimone and Republican opponent Roland Lavallee to secure District 5.
Ranglin-Vassell identifies as a progressive Democrat, lobbying for a $15 minimum wage as well as stronger gun laws. Her colleague Ursula Jackson says to the Providence Journal about Ranglin-Vassell, “She’ll definitely be an advocate for students.”
Ranglin-Vassell also promotes honest relations between community leaders and community members. On her website, she states “For too long…we’ve had politicians who have only helped themselves and their well-connected friends, while [the] community struggles.” Ranglin-Vassell hopes to change that. She calls on her experience as “a mother, a Providence public school teacher, and a community activist” to help her best represent her community in state legislature.