Election: City Council

Ed Neilson (D)*

State Rep. Ed Neilson has served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives since 2012 but said his LGBT support started before then.

Since taking office, Neilson has supported LGBT-inclusive measures such as the nondiscrimination and marriage-equality bills and also advocated for Philadelphia’s domestic-partner legislation nearly two decades ago.

Neilson said public safety is something he plans to focus on if elected, including expanding the police force.

“We are probably limiting our application process and we have to look for a way to expand our police force.”

Neilson served as deputy secretary of labor in Gov. Ed Rendell’s administration. He is also an officer of IBEW Local 98 and is a working union electrician.

Neilson said his experience as a legislator and a labor worker has given him the leverage to fight for all communities.

“I worked hard for everything I have ever done,” he said. “I have worked with City Council on a daily basis to protect our citizens. I helped rewrite City Code to make sure city buildings are safer. I have always been there to make Philly a stronger place to live and raise families.”

Neilson said that backing has extended to the LGBT community.

“When everybody ignored the community, I was there supporting the community whether through my volunteer hours at the William Way LGBT Community Center, coordinating projects or my work with domestic partnerships, it is something I never ran from and something I embraced.”

J. Matthew Wolfe (R)

Attorney J. Matthew Wolfe supports marriage equality, and said he would work to advocate for the LGBT community on all fronts if elected.

As an employment lawyer, Wolfe said he has found the implementation of the Fair Practices Ordinance, the city’s nondiscrimination law, to be lacking, and he would advocate for better enforcement.

“The remedies are in the ordinance (compensatory damages, attorney’s fees, costs) but do not seem to be imposed by the [Human Relations] Commission with the frequency necessary,” he said.

Wolfe said he hopes to increase sensitivity training for the Philadelphia Police Department on LGBT issues and would reform Philadelphia’s tax structure, impose lower tax rates and reprioritize spending while working to create more jobs.

“The best way to make the streets safer is to give more people jobs,” he said.

Wolfe said his business acumen would help him on Council.

“I am particularly proud that I have run my own business, have met a payroll and paid taxes. This basic experience is needed and lacking on City Council,” he said. “I am proud of my government service and community work.”

Wolfe said although Republican legislators have not always been particularly friendly to the LGBT community, he would work to gain LGBT support among both parties.

“Electing a Republican from Philly who cares about the LGBT constituency, understands the issues and is willing to lobby with the relationships he has developed can move things along more quickly,” he said. “I stand ready to help in that area, win or lose, because it is the right thing to do and because it will help strengthen the Republican Party in Philly.”

N.A. Poe (L)

N.A. Poe is the leader of activist and comedy troupe The Panic Hour. He said all Philadelphians should be treated equally, including regarding marriage rights.

“It is clear that the 14th Amendment guarantees everyone equal protection under the law,” he said. “I absolutely support marriage equality without exception.”

Poe said efforts to fight discrimination can be enhanced with better funding for awareness-raising initiatives about the city’s nondiscrimination measure.

“I’d bet most people don’t know their rights, as very specifically outlined, in City Code at length,” he said. “Education would need involvement from the legal community to make the law’s implications as clear as possible.”

Poe said he would take a unique approach to combat hate crimes against the LGBT community.

“I would submit a request, in every case where such a motive is suspected, to be investigated by the Department of Justice, as the Philadelphia Police Department is not a trustworthy auditor of their own behavior,” he said.

Poe said he embraces diversity in all facets of his life.

“My background and where I stand in life is why the LGBT community should vote for me; everyone is welcome at my table with an equal setting,” he said. “I’m just a guy from Philly trying to get respect for who he is.”