Brian Sims rebuffed by state Democratic leaders and LGBT community leaders

State Rep. Brian Sims.

Brian Sims has had a really bad few weeks. His campaign and support in Pennsylvania is in free fall, his reputation is suffering as even his peers from the Pa. State House of Representatives have distanced themselves from him, and those close to him have been reduced to making threats, spreading falsehoods and trolling LGBT leaders statewide. So what happened?

Simply put, he took the LGBT community for granted, and he was not appreciative of Pennsylvania’s proud history of national accomplishments dating back to 1975 when we led the nation in Equality.

His current problems started in Pittsburgh when the LGBT Democratic organization Steel City Stonewall Democrats rejected his candidacy and endorsed his opponent, Rep. Austin Davis, who was also endorsed by the state Democratic party. A week later, a press conference in Sims’ own district revealed a list of over 40 LGBT statewide leaders also rejecting him and endorsing Josh Shapiro for Governor and Austin Davis for Lt. Governor. His campaign’s answer to that was to revert to the tactics we here in PA have seen from him before. If you disagree with him, especially if you are LGBT, you are bullied, intimidated, and threatened. In this case his campaign also invented issues against Rep. Austin Davis while attacking LGBT people who signed on to support Rep Davis. This time, Sims’ antics backfired big time when the state Democratic party, the Democratic leaders of both the Pennsylvania Senate and House of Representatives, issued a press release on March 9 literally smacking Sims down for these tactics. Among other points, the release states:

“Over the past week, Representative Brian Sims has taken disappointing steps to push falsehoods and attacks against our party-endorsed ticket. It is our firm belief that in 2022, when our rights and our democracy are under attack, there is no room in our Party for this type of infighting and division…

“It is clear Representative Sims is willing to put his own self interest above that of the party, and for that reason he is unfit to help lead it.”

The statement is signed by Rep. Joanna McClinton, House Democratic Leader; Rep. Matt Bradford, House Appropriations Committee Democratic Ranking Member; Rep. Ryan Bizzarro, House Democratic Policy Committee Chair; Rep. Tina Davis, House Democratic Caucus Secretary; Senator Jay Costa, Senate Democratic Leader; Senator Tony Williams, Senate Democratic Whip; and Senator Vincent Hughes, Senate Appropriations Committee Democratic Ranking Member.

This year’s election is about keeping the Republicans from gaining control of Pennsylvania. It’s not that Sim’s is not a good speaker, it’s that his actions have polarized large sections of not just the LGBT community, but the entire state. This year’s election is Pennsylvania, and in Pennsylvania you don’t run two men from the Philadelphia area in a statewide race. Many in Pennsylvania’s LGBT community are pragmatic and understand the gravity of this election.

So who are these LGBT Leaders who are supporting Josh Shapiro and Austin Davis, leaders who contribute to LGBT Pennsylvania every day?

Here’s just a few you might know, from every part of Pennsylvania. There’s State Representative Jessica Benham of Pittsburgh, the first OUT woman from the LGBT community in the state legislature; Sean Strub, Mayor of Milford in the northeastern part of the state who you might know as one of the nation’s longtime HIV/AIDS activists who founded POZ magazine and wrote the book “Body Counts”; Deb Whitewood from Allegheny County, who successfully sued the state for marriage equality in 2013; Dr. Maria Sanelli who is the founder of Schuylkill County Stonewall Democrats and C. Lee Hill who is President of Steel City Stonewall Democrats; major labor leaders Matthew Yarnell of Centre County, who is President of SEIU Healthcare PA and Michelle Kessler of Luzerne County, who is the Secretary-Treasurer of UFCW Local 1776; leading trans advocates Dena Stanley of Pittsburgh and Corinne Goodwin of Allentown; Dr. Katie Dalke of Cumberland County who focuses on the mental health of LGBTQI people; Rue Landau former Executive Director of the Philadelphia Human Relations Commission, community activist Tyrell Brown from Philadelphia, Elizabeth Coffey Williams who co-facilitates Transway at the William Way LGBT Community Center; and Micah Mahjoubian from Philadelphia, whom without we would not have the John C. Anderson LGBT Senior affordable apartments. 

Some of these leaders are friends with Sims, but we all agree with the statement from The Victory Fund: “the LGBT community is not a monolith.” The LGBT community here in Pennsylvania is also not forgetful of all the controversy Brian has caused over the years. If Brian continues on this path he will be responsible if Republicans take control of Pennsylvania, since nearly the entire Democratic party is united with the endorsed Shapiro/Davis ticket. Sims is one of the few exceptions in the state. Brian, you are not above them all, and you shouldn’t lash out at those who are supportive of the state-endorsed Democratic party ticket, especially those in your own community.