I return to this publication writing this op-ed, nine years after my last article, now reflecting on Brian Sims’ recent announcement of his candidacy for Lieutenant Governor.
Back in 2012, I believed, for a list of valid reasons, that voters of 182nd district should stick with his predecessor, Babette Josephs. Regardless of my opinion at the time, no one wanted him to succeed more than me. We as a community are underrepresented at all levels of government, and his ascension to the seat was a moment of pride and hope for all of us. He was dually tasked with representing all of the residents of the district that I reside in, while taking on the hard job of advancing LGBTQ rights in the Commonwealth. The demands of the job were steep, but if he succeeded, we all would beam with a sense of pride and accomplishment, and God willing, make a critical step forward in advancing LGBTQ rights in the state of Pennsylvania.
Only months into the office, the first hateful epithet was hurled at him across the House floor. I called my friend, former Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley on his cell phone, and expressed my incredible frustration and disappointment. He promised me that he would not only work with Sims, but other members of the state Republican party to work to change the culture and move equality forward. Brian, I believed, needed air cover, from all of us, to assure those in leadership that we had his back.
Now, as he aspires to take on the incredibly vital job of Lieutenant Governor, it’s only fair to ask if he had our back during his tenure as State Rep. Unfortunately, it’s painfully clear that his time has been a spectacular failure on all accounts. Time and time again, when the job demanded that he take the high road and lead by example, he embarrassed not only the voters of his district, but every member of the LGBTQ community in this state and across the country.
This isn’t hyperbole. If you take some time to do a simple Google search, the results will tell you all you need to know. He has spent the better part of nine years on a national media tour campaigning as a warrior for equal rights, but his record and his actions chronicle just the opposite.
Almost a decade in the State House, and he has no legislative victories that he can claim as his own. He spent more time out of the district than inside it, flying from one speaking engagement to the next, while abusing his state issued travel budget and being shrouded in a lengthy ethics investigation. Countless members of both the House and Senate refuse to work with him because of his temper and tone (his profane, unhinged tirade while talking to Representative Tom Murt exposed his working demeanor for the world to see), and his penchant for social media stardom unfolded as he accosted a peaceful protestor in front of Planned Parenthood. His actions are a stain on this community.
By far, it’s the residents in the 182nd that have suffered the most from his abject dereliction of duty. Residents routinely complain about the lack of constituent service and absence at key neighborhood meetings and events. With regret, this is the most painful of his record, again displayed by his social media feed. If you notice, the feeds are filled with pictures of himself, and routinely missing the people that he serves. While other friends of mine work tirelessly for their constituents, chronicled on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, he struggles to highlight anything other than himself or regurgitated content found from others. I am angry at his constant disregard for all of the people in the 182nd that he was elected to serve.
The role of Lieutenant Governor is misunderstood by many. It’s seen by many in the Commonwealth as insignificant, but it is not. Very similar to the Executive Branch, the individual elected to that office works with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, across the State House and Senate, to advance legislation, forward the agenda of the Governor, and ensure the steady operations of the State. If the Governor vacates office, the next in line to lead the state is the Lieutenant Governor. In our very recent history, Governor Tom Ridge was asked to be the first Director of Homeland Security in 2001 and Mark Schweiker assumed the duties as Governor. This is a vital and pivotal office that we cannot take for granted, one that’s actions have a direct impact on the lives of everyday Pennsylvanians.
Representative Sims failed us in such spectacular fashion, there are many of us that are shocked at this announcement. Time after time, the job demanded more and better, and he met the challenge with disdain and contempt, displaying abhorrent behavior for anyone, let alone an elected official. How dare he take this responsibility and act like a petulant child abusing both the duty and responsibility of the office?
He failed his neighbors and his community. It’s clear that he will fail the residents of this State.
We deserve better, not more of the same. Our lives and human rights depend on it.
Chris Pinto is a lifelong resident of Philadelphia. He serves as a volunteer to many of our community’s organizations committed to advancing LGBTQ equality in Philadelphia and abroad.