Updated June 4, 2020 10:25 AM
Weeks ahead of Pennsylvania’s primary elections on June 2, 1.6 million applications for mail-in and absentee ballots were submitted. Kathy Boockvar, Pennsylvania’s top elections official, called this number “off the charts” in a press release. Not all 1.6 million will be returned, nevertheless mail-in ballots will determine many elections and delay results.
While the results of many races remain unknown, others have been called. Out representatives Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta and Rep. Dan Smith, both uncontested candidates, will remain the democratic representatives in the Pennsylvania House. Both Kenyatta and Smith were endorsed by the LGBT Victory Fund, a political action committee that is dedicated to getting LGBTQ officials elected to important seats in national and state legislatures. Kenyatta was additionally endorsed by the Liberty City Democratic Club. Rep. Michael Blichar Jr., who is also a member of the LGBTQ community, was the uncontested Democratic candidate to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in the 187th district.
Jessica Benham, who garnered 44% of votes in District 36, Allegheny County, has emerged from the primary victorious. In a press release from the LGBTQ Victory Fund, Benham was congratulated as on-track to be the first openly LGBTQ woman elected to the Pennsylvania state legislature, as well as the first openly autistic person elected to a state legislature anywhere in the United States. In a press release, Mayor Annise Parker, president & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund, said of Benham’s victory: “Jess beat the county party establishment and the odds by running a campaign focused on respect and equality — and her victory is a warning to party officials who consider endorsing anti-LGBTQ candidates in the future. Jess is determined to be an outspoken voice for the LBGTQ community and disability community in the state legislature — and the state of Pennsylvania will be better off for it.”
Two other candidates endorsed by the Victory Fund await final results of their races. Brett Burman (Dist. 9) from east-central Pennsylvania is a candidate for the State Senate. Burman could have become an out LGBTQ member of the State Senate after a win, has 46% of votes. This is compared to projected winner John Kane’s 54%, with 99% of votes counted at press time. Brian Sims, the incumbent contestant to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in District 182, won the primary with 54% of votes with Shaaban trailing with 46% .
Sharif Street, a noted LGBTQ ally, ran uncontested as an incumbent to the State Senate in the 3rd district and secured his primary victory. As for longtime LGBTQ ally Larry Farnese, challenger Bernie Sanders-endorsed Nikil Saval is projected to secure a victory in the 1st district State Senate race. At press time, Saval led with 68% of the vote. While the Associated Press has called this race, a significant amount of mail-in ballots remain uncounted and a definite prediction as of press time cannot be made.
Mary Isaacson, a candidate for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in the 175th district, who has demonstrated a commitment to the LGBTQ community throughout her career, has kept her seat by earning 35% of votes. This was a slight margin over her three competitors, with Vanessa McGrath coming in a close second with 27% of votes. This marks Isaacson’s first primary challenge since her appointment to the position in 2018. Isaacson, whose platform emphasizes, among other issues, paid leave or no-fault unpaid leave for employees to vote, said in a campaign ad that, “As we move forward from this pandemic, it’s more important than ever that I fight for you.”