Libby Kimzey may not have her undergraduate degree yet, but she could be on her way to a seat in Rhode Island’s House of Representatives. As of today, she is officially a candidate for the District 8 seat where Representative Mike Tarro, a first-termer, currently resides.
Originally admitted in the class of ’09, Kimzey has since taken off several semesters to lobby and organize for political groups in the state.
Kimzey started lobbying for Rhode Islanders for Fair Elections in Spring ’09. At the time, “there were certainly some people that didn’t take me seriously because…I was 19 years old,” Kimzey said. Later, when she worked as campaign manager for Teresa A. Tanzi (D-34, Narragansett, South Kingstown), she helped unseat one of those representatives, David Caprio.
Working on the Tanzi campaign has taught Kimzey to effectively communicate the issues, even to people who might not agree with her, she said. “She’s been my role model in a lot of ways,” Kimzey said. Tanzi’s campaign proved that to take on an incumbent, “You have to work in coalition and you have to start early and you have to think about your resources.”
Kimzey, whose family moved often when she was younger, has lived in Chicago, Hong Kong, Indonesia, and, most recently, New Jersey before moving to Rhode Island in Fall ’05 to attend Brown.
As she begins her campaign, Kimzey said her main issues are improving state public transportation, making the tax system fairer by increasing the tax rate for those in the higher brackets, and, in the long run, structural change in the state democratic process. Kimzey said she would support moves for legislators to work full time (Rhode Island congress members currently work part time), and changing the election process to include voter owned elections.
In a voter owned system, a candidate can qualify for a state grant to fund his/her campaign after proving a significant amount of support in his/her district. The change would structurally allow legislators to prioritize constituents’ concerns above raising funds, Kimzey said.
Kimzey, who is now 23, said she had not thought of pursuing politics until recently. “Politics has got a really big image problem,” Kimzey said. “I think of people who just want to see their names of billboards, and people whose dad was the governor of the state so they figure that’s what they want to do too.”
But since she started working with local coalition groups, she said she has found a community. “The people that are constant in my life are the people that I know from organizing work,” she said.
She decided to pursue politics because it is an arena where she can have the power to make change. “I did have an interest in making the world a better place to live and work,” she said. “That’s why I’m here.”
Kimzey said for now she will stay out of college. Until the University offers part time status for students, she will not return, she said.