A look at the Lt. Governor race in Pennsylvania

State Rep. Austin Davis (D-Allegheny) and State Rep. Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia).

The stakes are high in this year’s Governor’s race, and LGBT equality is literally at stake. If we don’t keep our eye on this race, we can lose the rights we have gained over the last 50 plus years. Yes, it’s that serious. Have you noticed the Republicans who want to be Governor? So let’s talk about the race for Lt. Governor here in Pennsylvania. 

Let’s start by stating the obvious: the race is about Pennsylvania and its citizens, and it’s also particularly about LGBT rights and getting LGBT nondiscrimination passed in Pennsylvania. There is no state wide law against discrimination against LGBT people in housing, employment and public accommodations in Pennsylvania. And the bottom line for our community is that passing LGBT nondiscrimination in Pennsylvania is a priority. 

There are two main candidates for Lt. Governor in the Democratic primary on May 17, and they are both State Representatives. We have one from the Pittsburgh area, Austin Davis, and one from Philadelphia, Brian Sims. Josh Shapiro, who will be the candidate for Governor, is also from the Philadelphia area. The first point is clear, two men from the Philadelphia area is not a winning formula to win a statewide race. But let’s go a bit further.

Sims may be great as a speaker on LGBT issues, and he has taken his position in politics and built it into a national brand. But this is a race about Pennsylvania. Sims simply has not delivered what he first promised to Pennsylvanians 10 years ago, the passage of the Equality Bill. Maybe it’s because he has more supporters outside his district than he does inside his district. As we wrote when we endorsed him for re-election 2 years ago, unless he delivers for his community here in Pennsylvania, it would be the last endorsement. And he still hasn’t delivered, now for almost 10 years.

Sims’ promise in that first campaign was that he would get Pennsylvania’s Equality bill passed. Here we are, 10 years later, and we are now further away from that goal than we were in 1976. We find ourselves in this situation due in part to Sims’ actions. What we expected to get in Harrisburg was a full time out representative, not a tourist looking for the next camera opportunity. 

Sims has used our fight for LGBT equality to create a brand. Rather than take the time to learn the legislative process and diplomacy and actually get something done, he had outbursts on the floor of the House. While the opposition deserved his outburst, they also found him an easy target to bait, and he took it. It created a situation that the bills introduced simply evaporated into thin air.

The fact is there are the votes to get the bill passed, but it takes diplomacy to get the other party to move it through the committees. There are those who could do that, but Sims’ name on it does not help. Add to that that he actually stopped a bipartisan LGBTQ+ bill from being introduced. 

The Lt. Governor is the president of the State Senate. It can be used as a diplomatic arm of the Governor. Sims has shown that he can not fulfill that important diplomatic role. A diplomat he is not, a team player he is not. Austin Davis, Josh Shapiro’s choice to be his running mate, will do that, and he and Josh have promised to use political capital to get the equality act passed in their first term, something Sims has not been able to do in almost 10 years.

Simply put, in a campaign of high stakes for our community, Sims’ outbursts and need to be noticed would be a distraction and a losing candidate for the Democrats and our community in the general election this November. It’s already going to be a tough fight to make Josh Shapiro the next Governor. We need to be united in giving him the tools and team that will work with him to make him Governor. The people in our community who know Sims best, to their great credit, don’t stand beside him as he runs for this office. He should listen to their guidance.

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