Sims to challenge Babette Josephs in 182nd Dist.
by Jen Colletta
Sep 08, 2011 | 7800 views | 16 16 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
BRIAN SIMS Photo: Scott A. Drake
BRIAN SIMS Photo: Scott A. Drake
Although he recently stepped down as board president of Equality Pennsylvania, Brian Sims isn’t ending his advocacy for LGBT rights: Next spring he plans to vie to become the first openly gay state lawmaker in Pennsylvania.

Sims intends to run in the April 2012 primary for the 182nd District House seat, currently held by Rep. Babette Josephs (D).

Last month Sims announced he would not run for another term as board president of Equality PA after two years at the helm, in which he oversaw the restructuring of the agency. He also recently stepped down from his two-year tenure as a member of the national campaign board of Victory Fund, which works to elect LGBT candidates to public office.

He noted that his experience with that organization proved influential in his decision to run for the state House.

“Victory Fund did a very good job of crunching the numbers and coming up with the data on the net effect an LGBT person can have in office, and when I joined the board, I just buried myself in those numbers,” he said. “What’s clear is that there is no statistical substitute for having a gay person in a legislative body — no matter how strong the allies, no matter how many the allies, LGBT issues that can be affected by the legislature are affected most when there is an openly gay person serving. From a school board to Congress, whether a gay person introduces a piece of pro-LGBT legislation or not, that person’s colleagues will be working with them on traffic law, on how to handle educational funding, and when that pro-LGBT bill comes up, they will have had all that time to interact with an LGBT person, which can have an enormous effect on furthering that legislation.”

Josephs, who has long been an ally to the LGBT community, has represented the 182nd District since 1984.

Sims, who served as Josephs’ campaign treasurer in the 2010 election cycle, said his run for office is not a commentary on her work on LGBT issues.

“It’s because of someone like Babette that I’m able to run,” he said. “It’s because of the attention she’s brought to women’s rights, reproductive rights, social-justice issues, civil rights and gay rights that someone like me has the opportunity to run and win in this district. Her work has allowed me to do it; it’s not despite it. Her approach since when she started serving was to create an environment where diversity — whether it be gender, sexual orientation, racial and ethnic diversity — could flourish, and that’s the case.”

When working with LGBT advocates to identify possible out candidates, Sims, who said community members have asked him to run numerous times, heard his name again.

“After years of trying to help get people elected who know our issues and then after years of also advocating for those issues, it became obvious to me that the person I was looking for for this district was me,” he said. “I sat down with some other people and we were looking at the people who live in this district and the people who could really make a change, and the list got shorter and shorter until ultimately we thought I’d be good for this.”

A policy attorney, Sims currently serves as president of the Gay and Lesbian Lawyers of Philadelphia. As the first openly gay football captain in the history of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, Sims also travels to college campuses throughout the country speaking on the issue of homophobia in sports.

Sims, 32, holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and attained his law degree from Michigan State University School of Law.

Sims has served as the staff counsel for policy and planning at the Philadelphia Bar Association and last year was named to the National LGBT Bar Association’s “40 Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40.”

As the son of two Army colonels, Sims lived in 17 states growing up, settling in Pennsylvania in the early ’90s.

He said he comes from a “strong line of alpha-empowered women,” which influenced his development as a “diehard feminist” and his work on women’s rights.

While he said his family was supportive of his coming-out and stands behind his work on LGBT-rights issues, he noted that they don’t all share the same political ideals, which he said has given him invaluable preparation for the political world.

“As much as I wish it was about big, strong speeches and esoteric arguments, the Pennsylvania House is all about collaboration, and I think I have the benefit of a background and work that has shown me that I’m very able to bring people together,” he said. “I’m very good at sitting a bunch of people down who don’t think they agree on anything, who think they have no commonalities and who don’t think they can set 10 things aside to work on one, and actually get them to do it. We don’t need to agree on all of our issues to accomplish a lot. The House has been slowed down by an inability to collaborate.”

Sims said he would work to represent the interests of the 182nd District when it came to funding issues, education and environmental issues and to ensure fair treatment of groups like seniors and low-income Philadelphians when it came to areas like property reevaluations.

In terms of LGBT issues, Sims said he would be eager to work for the passage of the long-stalled LGBT nondiscrimination bill, as well as new antibullying measures and the strengthening of current antibullying laws.

While he’s confident in his ability to lead, Sims said he wouldn’t consider a lifelong career in politics.

“I have career aspirations and goals. I had been a disability attorney, and I could see myself going back to that,” he said. “I hope to stay in office just long enough to accomplish those things that are most meaningful to me and to the district. I don’t have the goal of becoming the first gay governor or mayor; my goal is to shorten the lifespan of a bunch of issues we’ve been working on for years.”

In the coming weeks, Sims will attend numerous national LGBT politically oriented events, such as the Victory Fund national conference and the Human Rights Campaign convention, to spread the news about his campaign and to fundraise.

He plans to open his campaign office Oct. 1, and then “it’s off to the races” with door-to-door introductions, fundraisers and “friendraisers.”

“I’ve got a really great team working with me. We are about to launch one of the largest, cleanest, healthiest, most well-funded and well-rounded campaigns this region has seen in way too long,” Sims said. “I hope that by running a large-scale campaign that draws on all of the communities I’ve worked with — fiercely intelligent people this region has always had but not used — that the inertia and volume of energy we will create is going to be something people will want to get on board with.”

*The print version of this story lists several of the candidate's friends and advisers as campaign staff; however, no campaign staff will be hired until October.

Jen Colletta can be reached at

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December 04, 2011
This candidacy illustrates a couple of things about the "gay lobby gang" in Pennsylvania that rubs me the wrong way as a gay Pennsylvanian myself:

1) The exclusive focus on the Democratic Party, with no good-faith efforts made AT ALL to reach out to and lobby members of other parties. While the GOP is hostile overall to LGBT rights, it has plenty of waverers who would make a huge difference on the issues... except that the PA gay establishment has made itself a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party rather than an independent lobby.

2) The role of "pretty, rich and white" in Philadelphia's gay political establishment. There's no doubt that Brian is very, very pretty, and grew up in a fairy-tale life as an upper-middle-class popular white guy on the Main Line. But what has he done that qualifies him to represent the 182nd district? There are plenty of LGBT activists in the district with a deeper understanding of LGBT activism. There are plenty of queer Philadelphians who bring more experience and a deeper perspective on economic issues. Let's not kid ourselves about why the press fawns over him -- at least Philly Weekly was honest when they wrote that their interview "was an effort to get in his pants."

3) The wrong views on inclusiveness. I've reached out to Sims a couple of times on issues related to the economy, etc. and got told that it was "too combative" to take a stand on those issues. A number of his associates are anti-marriage-equality, but he counts them as "friends." It's NOT inclusive to count the Bad Guys among your friends, just as it's also not inclusive to lock out people who don't take a wishy-washy view on the issues.

I suspect Brian will find that campaigning on the issues and taking a strong stand on them is going to be a lot more difficult than he expects. A pretty smile and shake of the head isn't going to shake off the persistent questions.
mike ramon
October 01, 2011
It's quite common for a person, who gains a little bit of notoriety, to enter politics and reach for the stars. I do not know Brian Sims personally, but he did answer one of my g-mails, when I wrote and told him I am also a graduate of Michigan State University, but it is also my home state, unlike Sims. The second g-mail he did not answer, but he is a busy man. Personally, now this is just me thinking this, I believe Sims is very popular for a few reasons. # one: He is very goodlooking. #2 he is young. #3 he very macho and tough looking. Now if he was homely I don't think he would be where he is at right now, now these are my thoughts only. If being very popular has gone to his head and he is strutting around like an emperor penquin, well that's just Brian, let him be. The man I really admired was Senator Edward Kennedy, when he was young and handsome he never let it go to his head, he was always a people's man no matter what type of background you came from, maybe, if what I hear is true, Sims should take some lessons from the great Senator Edward Kennedy. But I much admire Brian no matter what.
Outside Looking IN
September 23, 2011
I agree - he's running for a spot that's held by someone that's apparently mentored him in some fashion. She's a politician with some clout and history - who has supported the same thing.

I know of Brian through the LGBT community in Philadelphia. Unfortunately no one things higher of Mr. Sims than Mr. Sims. He egotistically writes his own bios, puff pieces, and looks down on the people he needs to support him. Unfortunately, this fits right in along side most lawmakers, but it would be a cold day in hell before I vote for him.
September 22, 2011
This whole thing stinks. What voter in this district would vote to unseat a woman who has been, at times, our lone voice for LGBT rights in the state. She has a proven track record of voting for us, and is a ranking member of the house. If you understand how politics work in the house, you don't pull the ranking member of the house and replace her with a freshman who moved out of his district because he knows he couldn't carry it (and shame on him for that). We as a community would look like a bunch of fools if we voted him into office. Talk about having no voice - it would be gone. I'll be actively campaigning for the WOMAN who has been solidly in our corner for over 25 years.
Chris in 182
September 20, 2011
I know both candidates personally. I like them both, and I would vote for them both - for different reasons. Brian has terrific energy, idealism, and he is an actual LGBT person. I would love to see him serving in the PA House WITH Babette.

Yes, Babette has become a bit entitled, and she doesn't campaign very well any more. But anyone who pays attention to the PA House knows that Babette is the strongest progressive voice in that body, and one of the most experienced. Anyone who says she doesn't work well with colleagues, or that she's ineffective, doesn't know what they're talking about - for one thing, Babette is the only reason PA doesn't have a Constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage. She's a rock around which other progressives rally.

I would have loved to see Brian Sims in the PA legislature, learning from Babette Josephs. But REPLACING Josephs with Sims is a terrible blow to the PA LGBT community.
Gay Activist
September 15, 2011
Why isn't Mark Segal running?
Julie J.
September 13, 2011
First: Brian used to be my neighbor near 20th and Christian and he moved over a year ago. And many months BEFORE contemplating this candidacy, I am sure.

Second: Josephs has absolutely become a coasting politician who has some respect of tenure, but voices opinion on things rather than proactively pursuing them. She is gone from the angry pit bull to the happy puppy.

Third: As much as I have been fond of Babette, I feel like the past few years she has really only been attending LGBT events for face time and not because of a passion for the community.

You had a good run Babs. Thanks, and enjoy your retirement.
rich w
September 12, 2011
This is how we thank someone for years and years of service to the gay community? "It's because of people like Babbette that I'm able to run"...and so I choose to stab her in the back and run against her? Yeah, that's the kind of loyalty I'm looking for in my representative. NOT!
Joey "Chris" Hagan
September 12, 2011
On a slightly off topic and not to sound shallow, but Sims is very cute.
September 11, 2011
The only reason why Babette would be perceived to be ineffective is because she's pushing against the brick wall that is the PA legislature. I highly doubt Sims will have a greater ability to convince the Appalachian cave trolls that dominate our legislature to do the right thing. And whoever made the point about the legislature's gender imbalance good call. This is one queer (trans) woman that is supporting Babette.
September 09, 2011
It's strange how negatively people can react to someone who works really hard for a lot of people. I have always liked Babette, voted for her, and will always think highly of her, the same way he seems to. But I'm ready to live in a district where there's not only leadership on liberal issues but someone who can begin to move the also. She's fought so many fights that she doesn't seem to be able to work with anyone any more. Thank you for starting so much of this Rep. Josephs but it looks like there's finally someone strong enough to fill your shoes!
September 09, 2011
Seriously - this young man started off as a pretty nice guy with great potential but now has ended up being a puffed up peacock hanging out with the DC boys too much. what a goof
September 09, 2011
Um - seriously - running against Babette instead of from your own district? Bad Idea. Why not have two strong voices in the House on progressive & lgbt issues when your district has an open seat.

No thanks - not going to lend support to Brian. Like him - but - if this is the type of decisions he make - he's more about Brian than the issues.
Real Feminist
September 09, 2011
Question is why move from the property you own and called home in a district with an open seat just to run against a progressive woman incumbent, particularly when there are only 42 women in the 253 member legislature. Doesn't sound like a "diehard feminist."
September 08, 2011
Brian lives in the 182nd District. Besides it's time for Josephs to step aside. She is no longer effective in Harrisburg.
More Info Needed
September 08, 2011
Would be great to have a LGBT legislator in Harrisburg. But why isn't Brian running from his home address on 20th street in the soon-to-be-open legislative seat of Kenyatta Johnson. Then we'd have Babette, a long-time LGBT supporter and Brian.