For the LGBT community, there are a few races of particular interest, to which PGN gave more attention: attorney general, the 182nd District (which encompasses the Gayborhood) and other House seats with an openly LGBT candidate.
For attorney general, PGN endorses former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy. While in the House, Murphy spearheaded efforts to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He has been consistently and steadfastly supportive of LGBT rights, as well as women’s, voters’ and workers’ rights. Before he was elected to the House, Murphy served in Iraq in the Army, taught at West Point, was a judge advocate and a special assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Murphy is a genuine hero to the LGBT community. If for no other reason, vote for a man who fought for you.
For the first time, there are six openly LGBT Democratic candidates for the state House: Roy Christ is a candidate for the 103rd District seat; Chris Dietz, 104th District; Kelly McEntee, 105th District; Jeff Dahlander, 111th District; Brian Sims, 182nd District; and Fatimah Lorén Muhammad, 188th District.
One race in particular has received a lot of attention: the 182nd. In this election, incumbent Rep. Babette Josephs is being challenged by her former campaign treasurer, Sims. This has been a divisive race for the LGBT community.
On the one hand, there is Josephs, who is a staunch LGBT supporter and ally. A representative since 1985, Josephs stood up for all LGBT rights before many others did. Perhaps most notably, she defeated the anti-gay-marriage amendment, which would have amended the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage, on top of the state’s DOMA law. She is a reliable cosponsor and votes for LGBT-friendly legislation. Josephs is outspoken in her criticism of the Republicans, refusing to work with them. But Democrats and would-be supporters have also said she’s hard to work with. She’s the minority chair on the State Government Committee, where she has seniority. She is a founding member and co-chair of the LGBT caucus and has introduced nondiscrimination and marriage-equality legislation. But while she’s a progressive Democrat, Josephs has backed some questionable initiatives. Earlier this year, she voted for the Year of the Bible resolution. In 2011, she tried to extend prohibitions and disclosure laws to domestic partners of lobbyists and state elected and appointed officials — while they have neither equal rights nor protections.
On the other hand, there is Sims. He has run an impressive campaign, raising a lot of money and gaining visibility and support in the LGBT community. Not surprisingly, he has good positions on LGBT issues, as well as on progressive and women’s issues. He has promised to work with Republicans and to represent LGBT people, which he would do well. He’s articulate, passionate, well-spoken and well educated. His résumé is not long, but he has some achievements. He was the first out gay football captain at a NCAA school and he led Equality PA through transition to a statewide organization and transferring the legal services to Mazzoni Center. That said, he has never held public office, and served as Josephs’ campaign treasurer before his campaign.
In deciding our endorsement, PGN considered several factors. One was that both had unsavory elements to their campaigns. For Sims, the undertone of his campaign has been that Josephs has done a good job, but now that there’s a viable candidate, she should step down (or be voted out). Intended or no, this comes across as somewhat ageist and sexist. And what does it say to allies of the LGBT community who have given their support for years — that we’ll abandon you the minute we have a viable LGBT candidate? Moreover, there aren’t many women in the state legislature. Is it more important to have an LGBT voice than a woman’s voice? What do LBT women think of this? Likewise, is it valid to vote for Josephs just because she’s a woman?
In a campaign mailer, Sims cited Josephs’ 2006 vote against mandatory sex-offender registration, quoting her as saying it “gives citizens, especially parents, a false sense of security.”
[Josephs voted in favor of a bill last year that strengthened sentences for those who failed to comply with the sex-offender registration process.]
For her part, Josephs alleged in a mailer that Sims would compromise with Gov. Corbett on the voter ID and ultrasound bills and cuts to public education — unlikely, given his positions on those issues. Further, she has somewhat alienated herself from her district and her Democratic colleagues — whose support she needs to be effective — and taken her seat (and voters) for granted. At the April 17 debate, Josephs said she “expect[s] to come back and be serving you as for as long as I want to.”
Because of these reasons, PGN endorses Sims for the 182nd District. This was an extremely difficult decision, and one not taken lightly. Though Sims may not be the perfect candidate, he has the vision to lead change and has the audacity to think that LGBT issues can be — are — nonpartisan issues.
As both candidates have been strong advocates for the LGBT community, voters can be content with the decision they make — either for Sims or Josephs.