The maturation and empowerment of Philadelphia’s LGBT community was in full view after Tuesday’s primary election. And this community pulled in some very impressive wins. But while all eyes were on the marquee races for governor and U.S. senator, we also had two high-profile races and, as the expression goes, all politics are local.
The races were two Center City state House of Representatives districts, the 175th and 182nd. In both, proven incumbents with long track records were challenged by LGBT people, both with no community ties and little record. The LGBT political establishment endorsed incumbents Mike O’Brien and Babette Josephs, respectively.
O’Brien and Josephs soundly beat their opponents. O’Brien won with a whopping 80 percent of the vote and Josephs received 61 percent of the vote.
Here’s where a politically organized community comes into play. Community leaders overwhelmingly supported incumbents O’Brien and Josephs. Those leaders, from a cross-section of the community and with the trust of the community, took that message to the community itself with meet-and-greets, fundraisers and a get-out-the-vote campaign. Finally, Liberty City endorsed both candidates, as did this publication.
On primary day, the organizations went to work. Mass e-mails went out to almost all LGBT voters in the districts, mailers were out and, finally, the field operation took over. Liberty City Democratic Club had 60 poll watchers. In some cases, Liberty City was the only organized political presence.
These are the races city political leaders and pundits look to in order to gauge the community’s strength and political maturity. And the margins are impressive. Yet, as impressive as the margins are, those numbers will only be good when you have candidates who have their own strong operations. It’s a delicate balance but, this year, the community and the candidates were like a symphony.
All this LGBT political activity also showed results with the election of a slew of out individuals to Democratic state committee positions.
But we’d be remiss if we didn’t discuss those two marquee races. The heart of this community was clearly with Joe Hoeffel, but his loss comes at the hands of a much-better-financed campaign, that of Dan Onorato. While all the candidates for governor had LGBT support, this publication endorsed Williams for his long voting record and keeping an antigay marriage referendum off the ballot. While not the strongest on LGBT issues, Onorato shows promise. Hopefully, you’ll see his vision for the LGBT community in these pages.
On to the U.S. Senate race. The community was split. This publication and many LGBT leaders backed incumbent Arlen Specter for his long record and a belief that he would be better positioned to beat Republican Pat Toomey in the fall. Joe Sestak won convincingly and is now the Democratic candidate; he must move quickly to paint Toomey for the right-winger he is, which will unite the Democratic Party base for a strong turnout in November.
Mark Segal is PGN publisher. He can be reached at [email protected].