Sosnowski Looks to Further Agenda in 8th term
State senator pledges to work hard for District 37 after narrow victory.
State Sen. Susan Sosnowski faced her most difficult campaign yet as she eeked out a narrow victory last Tuesday to secure her eighth term. But the close race isn't slowing Sosnowski down as she plans to continue pushing her agenda of small business growth and support for Rhode Island agriculture.
District 37 voters reelected the Democratic senator over independent candidate Kevin R. O'Neill 51.4 percent to 48.6 percent to represent South Kingstown and New Shoreham.
Sosnowski attributes her narrow victory to a more fiery than usual campaign season, referring specifically to negative mailings sent out to voters by the O'Neill camp and an overall mood that incumbent politicians should be ousted. The mailings apparently pointed to her pro-choice view on abortion, which brought out the right to life vote in strength. Sosnowski feels the money spent on negative campaigning these days is "obscene," and pledges to campaign solely on the issues rather than attacking her opponents.
Sosnowski was first elected to the Rhode Island Senate in 1996 as a Republican. However, given her lack of support for Republican Gov. Lincoln Almond's veto of the Hospital Conversion Act, her party threatened to kick her out and she opted to become an independent in 1997. In the 1998 election, Sosnowski ran as a Democrat and was re-elected in a landslide over Republican candidate Martha Stamp. Sosnowski is the first woman to represent South Kingstown in the state Senate.
Prior to becoming a senator, Sosnowski served on the South Kingstown Planning Board and was the lobbyist at the General Assembly for the R.I. Nursery and Landscape Association. During that time, she decided she could make a bigger impact as a legislator than as a lobbyist. "The R.I. Senate was well-intentioned, but didn't understand the needs of agriculture," Sosnowski said.
Some of the issues concerning agriculture in the 1990s that prompted Sosnowski to run for office were the AFL-CIO's attempted unionization of farm workers in Rhode Island and the reduction of farmland due to residential growth. Being an organic farmer in the senate, which consists largely of trial lawyers and the like, Sosnowski says she "had to work very, very hard" to have her agenda supported, emphasizing the need for suitable water resources and environmental regulations.
However, her efforts have paid off, as Rhode Island agriculture has flourished over the last decade. "In the 90s, there were about four farmers markets in Rhode Island. Today, there around 40," Sosnowski said. "Agriculture has been a bright spot in the Rhode Island economy for several years now."
Rhode Islanders are becoming increasingly interested in buying locally grown foods, and business is good for companies like Rhody Fresh, a cooperative of Rhode Island and Massachusetts dairy farmers.
As for small businesses, Sosnowski believes that the state should follow the agricultural model, reducing red tape and stifling regulations. "What worked 20 years ago isn't working now," she said.
Among Sosnowski's proudest accomplishments while serving in the senate are the passing of legislation banning smoking in businesses and public buildings, the reduction of the legal blood alcohol concentration for drivers from 0.1 to 0.08, and the authorization of an offshore wind farm off Block Island.
This term, Sosnowski plans to continue to work for small business, pursue pension reform, energy-related legislation for job creation (especially related to wind power), restructure the Coastal Resources Management Council, and maintain support of RI's commercial fishing fleet.
Sosnowski is especially grateful to those who supported her this past Election Day, and is looking forward to working with all the new faces in the state delegation.