Babette Josephs is the senior-most female legislator in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. She, for over 27 years, has tirelessly worked on behalf of women’s wellness, and her record is second to none. She was the lone advocate for gay rights when no one dared to even utter the word “gay” in the state legislature. She took on the powerful gun lobby to reduce the amount of illegal guns and assault weapons on the streets. Every single time in the past 27 years, when legislators decided to legislate on their own personal morals, Babette has been in their face, with her signature backpack, to stop them dead in their tracks. Transit funding, school advocate, rights and protections for seniors — the list goes on. And she’s done this with no state car (she uses public transportation) and a lean staff (efficient and effective). And there’s never a time where Babette won’t spend time with the people in her district.
Brian Sims is not a native to the district and, in fact, he’s not native to Philadelphia. His work experience is anemic when compared to the comprehensive list of national publicity that he’s garnished as the “out” football player at Bloomsburg University. From his website, he’s actively practiced law for approximately one year, on his own. I’m not sure how any of this equates to being qualified or capable of representing or even understanding the issues and the people of the 182nd District, when, for the majority of his personal and professional life, he’s lived outside of the very district he’s running to lead.
There’s absolutely nothing that Brian has said in this campaign that differs from what Babette has said, and has delivered on, for years. So, if there’s no difference in policy, why would anyone actively mount a campaign against a person that he worked for just 24 months prior?
Brian had the opportunity to run in his former district for Kenyatta Johnson’s seat and he declined. He decided to move to the 182nd District and challenge our staunchest ally in the state House. Anyone running for this level of state office has to plan a run like this years in advance. If you look at the dates of his campaign announcement, his contributors and his actions in those 12 months after his work with his opponent, this wasn’t a move driven by personal reasons. I am insulted that people would even believe this is a matter of “coincidence.”
Mr. Sims worked for his challenger just 24 months ago, as treasurer for her campaign. After having access to all of her campaign information, and her successful reelection, his camp claims that by a series of “coincidences,” he would move for personal reasons, and then decide to challenge the one person that we’ve supported as a community for decades (almost immediately after the conclusion of her campaign).
This is not a “coincidence.” This is a calculated betrayal of someone who has selflessly spoken up for us when no one else dared to.
I am offended and outraged at Mr. Sims’ actions. I am disgusted that many people in this community have been blinded by the singular notion that being gay trumps experience and steadfast support for three decades.
We can say that we want an out candidate, but what are we willing to sacrifice for it? Are we that fickle of a community that we embrace someone who has betrayed our staunchest statewide ally and, by his own campaign literature, is clearly unaware of the needs of his constituents? Are we willing to sacrifice a ranking ally in the House for a freshman whose ethics are compromised before he even walks in the door?
Thanks to the many pioneers who have gone before us, we will win a seat not simply because we are gay. We will win a seat because we are qualified to do the job, and do it because we understand the people who we are representing.
We as a community cannot and should not turn our backs on someone who has an exemplary record of protecting us. We have fought discrimination all of our lives and have no right to discriminate against someone because of their gender or sexual orientation. Babette has done and continues to do the job exceptionally well. To vote any other way would reverse years of fighting for gender and racial equality, and will do us all more harm than good.
I have faith that the residents of the 182nd District will vote for Babette. And I hope that after the election, Sims will reevaluate his short-lived, self-proclaimed contributions to our community. Because true LGBT advocates work selflessly toward the cause, above and beyond their own personal aspirations, for the good of the community.
Chris Pinto is a marketing and communications executive and resident of the 182nd District since 2002.