Dear friends and neighbours:

My name is Victoria Gu, and I’m running for State Senate here in District 38, which covers Westerly and parts of Charlestown and South Kingstown. I’m coming forward to ask for thoughtful, evidence-based solutions to the challenges our communities face. Here is an abridged version of a letter I sent to constituents explaining my story and my priorities for our community.

I grew up in South Kingstown and now live on Quonochontaug Pond near the Charlestown/West border. When I was younger, my father participated in many fishing competitions, often bringing me along with our golden retriever, Kelly. Everywhere we went, Kelly and I loved climbing the big rocks and getting doused by the waves. We must do more to protect our environment and expand public access to the Rhode Island coastline because it is a shared resource for everyone, whether you swim, fish, or make a living or home there.

My parents grew up in a small fishing and farming community off the coast of Shanghai. Education was the only stepping stone my parents had to enter the United States and into the middle class, so they taught me to work hard at every opportunity I had. We quickly saw that the funding changes were having ripple effects in South Kingstown Public Schools and across the state. Between 2005 and 2011 (my middle and high school years), teachers in Rhode Island lost about half to three-quarters of their retirement benefits. We said goodbye to some of our most experienced teachers, who took early retirement to maintain their benefits. I know we can do better. We need to ensure that our public schools are well-funded, attract quality teachers and staff, and that every child in the state has access to a quality education.

After graduating from South Kingstown High School, I was thrilled to be accepted into Harvard University. I wanted an in-demand skill, so I studied computer science and economics. My first job out of college was in the tech industry. It was pretty typical for me to be the only female on my assigned team of 5-10 people. My experience in a heavily male-dominated industry has motivated me to champion and empower women. I’m running as a pro-choice Democrat because with everything going on with the Supreme Court, we need to elect more women who will fight for equality and protect our rights, including our reproductive rights.

A mindset I’ve taken away from my work in software and data analytics is: Always use the data to determine your next step. We’d often say, “Hey, we think doctors would benefit from this change in the app,” and then look at the before and after data to see if we actually solved the problem we wanted to solve. I’ve been surprised to find that other industries, as well as many decision makers, aren’t as focused on exploring the best available evidence to inform their decisions. That’s why I want to bring an evidence-based perspective to the state legislature. I would focus on using evidence to develop informed solutions and tracking data over time to monitor success.

I worked in health tech during the day, but in my spare time I focused on advocacy and environmental policy. I am proud of the groups I have organized to redirect government food procurement in several key areas: fair labor practices, better nutritional standards and environmental sustainability. In my advocacy work, I have learned how to turn ideas into bills, build support and get bills across the finish line. I am ready to bring this knowledge to the State House.

There is no doubt that our coastal communities – including Westerly, Charlestown and South Kingstown – are vulnerable to rising sea levels and storms intensified by climate change. That’s why I joined the local climate resilience commission and was honored to be named chair. We need more legislators who are proactive and think longer-term about the investments we need to make in climate action, resilience, public schools, and affordability. This is what prompted me to run for office.

Together we can protect our environment and ensure that people with roots here can afford to stay here. I’d love to hear more about your thoughts and your priorities for our community, and I’d be honored to win your vote in the September 13 Democratic primary. You can reach me at 401-388-0696 or [email protected], and my website is victoria4ri.com.

The writer is running for the 38th District State Senate seat.