Meet Sheldon

Rhode Islanders know Sheldon Whitehouse as a tireless fighter for Ocean State values. For more than three decades, he’s been on the side of families working for a decent living, a good education, and dignity in retirement.

From his father, a World War II Marine and American diplomat, Sheldon learned early on the value of service to community and country. As Foreign Service postings took the family from country to country in Asia and Africa, Sheldon learned firsthand the value and power of America’s example in the world. That spirit of service guides his work making our government and our economy work for all Rhode Islanders—not for the special interests in Washington. Sheldon and his wife Sandra, a marine biologist, live in Newport. They have two grown children, Molly and Alexander, and two grandchildren.

Sheldon helped Governor Bruce Sundlun solve Rhode Island’s banking crisis and workers compensation collapse and reform state government ethics, learning that big solutions were possible. In 1994, Senator Claiborne Pell recommended that President Clinton nominate Sheldon to be Rhode Island’s U.S. Attorney. In that role, he prosecuted notorious organized crime figures and gangs, led public corruption investigations, and won record compensation for Rhode Islanders following the Narragansett Bay oil spill, which he made sure was dedicated to coastal conservation. Later, as Rhode Island Attorney General, Sheldon sued lead paint manufacturers for lead poisoning widespread among Rhode Island children, and founded the Rhode Island Quality Institute to reorient the health care system toward improving care and reducing waste. 

On November 7, 2006, Rhode Islanders elected Sheldon to the United States Senate, where he’s earned a reputation for standing up for progressive principles and finding common ground between Republicans and Democrats to get big things done. Speaker Nancy Pelosi described Sheldon this way: “Relentless. Persistent.”


Sheldon is focused on lowering costs for families, championing legislation to penalize oil companies that hike prices at the gas pump and to bring homeownership within reach for the middle-class. To help create good jobs and strengthen small businesses, Sheldon’s work on the Finance Committee seeks to eliminate tax incentives for companies that ship jobs overseas and to rebuild economic fairness. His Buffett Rule legislation would put a stop to multi-million-dollar earners paying lower tax rates than middle-class Rhode Islanders.

Sheldon understands that Social Security and Medicare are twin pillars of economic fairness and retirement security for Rhode Island seniors and their families. Sheldon has a plan for protecting Medicare and Social Security benefits forever, without cuts, simply by making the very highest earners pay their fair share into the system.

In the Ocean State, our economy and way of life depend on the health of our environment. As Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Sheldon is a champion in the fight against carbon pollution, to protect our air and water, and position Rhode Island as a leader in the clean energy economy. He founded the Senate Oceans Caucus to forge bipartisan policy laws protecting our oceans and coasts, and the people and economies that rely on them.

In the Judiciary Committee, Sheldon battles to rid our politics of corrupting ‘dark money’ and leads the fight for independence and integrity in our federal courts. He is the nation’s leading voice for reforming the Supreme Court and holding justices accountable to an ethics code. He relentlessly shines light on special interest money corroding all three branches of government and champions the DISCLOSE Act, his bill to get anonymous special interest money out of politics.


Sheldon played a pivotal role in crafting and implementing the Affordable Care Act, and fights to protect the affordable health care that law made available to millions of Americans. Like many Rhode Islanders, Sheldon knows how devastating a cancer diagnosis can be to a family. In 2013, his legislation to improve research on the deadliest forms of cancer was signed into law. Sheldon ensures that Senator Pell’s legacy—the Pell Grant program—remains strong for the next generation of Americans, to turn their dreams of a college education into reality.

When the terrible epidemic of opioid addiction gripped Rhode Island and communities across the country, Sheldon wrote the bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. The 2016 law gives communities, law enforcement, and health professionals tools and funding to help families whose lives have been turned upside down by addiction.

Sheldon believes we can restore America and ease pressure on working families: by making politics respond to voters, not creepy billionaires; by turning the tax code around so the super-rich don’t corrupt it; by making Social Security and Medicare safe and sound as far as the eye can see; by restoring a Supreme Court we can trust; and by breaking the grip of polluters who block our progress toward a safe climate and healthy oceans.

With your support, Sheldon continues to fight to fulfill the promises generations of Rhode Islanders have fought for: freedom and opportunity for every American.