With 18 new members in the 113-seat General Assembly, On Politics is offering a periodic look at the latest additions to the House and Senate. We continue with state Representative Lauren Carson (D-Newport), who defeated three-term former Representative Peter Martin in the Democratic primary last September.
Occupation: Environmental policy analyst with Clean Water Action.
Favorite Food: That's a really hard question. My very favorite food is eggplant Parmesan.
Favorite TV Show: I watch a lot of stuff on Netflix, but right now I'm engrossed in Downton Abbey.
Why did you run to be a state rep? I always wanted to be an elected official from the time I was a younger woman. I felt like I have something to contribute to the state. The opportunity presented itself. I feel like there's much work to do. I plunged in, I took the chance, I saw the opportunity, and here I am. I'm fairly opinionated. That's one reason. I'm fairly articulate, and I talk a lot, so people always told me when I was younger that I would be good at this. But more seriously, and I look at my community, Newport, I'm really very alarmed about a few things down there that I wanted to make a difference on, most notably flooding in my community, most notably, maintaining our tourism economy.
What living political figure do you most admire, and why? I saw you were asking that question, and I thought about it. The answer that I have, really, are some of our retired presidents -- Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Particularly Jimmy Carter as an older man, as he is -- he's still in the community, he had a difficult presidency, he did not win re-election, but he still persevered and he's still out there in the community, and I really admire that.
What are your top goals for this legislative session? One of my top goals for this session is to put together a study commission to begin measuring the business risk associated with flooding. I'm very concerned about that. I think a lot of attention has been paid to the environmental issues and some emergency management systems, but we really have to look at our business. If I were running this state as a business, I would want to know exactly what the financial risks were, and I would really like to study that.
The best thing about Rhode Island is _____ The best thing about Rhode Island, really, is our size. We know each other. Everybody's one or two steps away, and I think that's wonderful. If we could really capitalize on those relationships, we could really move forward.
The worst thing about Rhode Island is _____ I could do without all that snow outside right now, as a matter of fact, so I'll say winter.
Fun Fact: Among the various subgroups of lawmakers, Carson fits in the small band of ardent environmentalists. Her sensitivity to the issue is underscored by how she resides in The Point section of Newport, which has a high percentage of historic homes "and is slated to be under several feet of water in my son's lifetime." Asked about galvanizing short-term steps to reduce the long-term threat of climate change, Carson said, "I think the first thing to do is just to really look at the issues that are on the table, and hopefully that will begin to point more of my colleagues toward a longer term solution."