Mayoral candidates make their case to the LGBTQ community

Mayoral Candidates speaking at a January 23 event. Top left to right: Derek Green, Helen Gym, Cherelle Parker, Warren Bloom, and Jeff Brown. Bottom left to right: James DeLeon, Rebecca Rhynhart, Maria Quiñones Sánchez, Amen Brown, Mike Stack

The William Way LGBT Community Center hosted candidates for mayor at a meet and greet event on January 23, with each candidate given two minutes to introduce themselves followed by open time for attendees to meet the candidates and discuss issues one on one. The event, which drew a packed crowd of all ages, was hosted by Philadelphia Gay News, Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club, Al Dia, Philadelphia Young Democrats, and Mazzoni Center.

“I thought it was terrific and a real opportunity to get to meet all these people, all in one place,” said Frank Potopa, who was at the event attended by all eleven mayoral candidates. “I don’t mind having so many candidates in the race. What I’m concerned with is that they be quality Democrats who support LGBT issues, and I think that’s what we have.” 

Rev. Warren Bloom, Sr., the first candidate to address the crowd, talked about his time as a block captain and expressed support for the LGBT community.

“Everybody deserves to be respected and show their dignity and have the opportunity to love whoever they want to,” Bloom said. “As a pastor and minister. I’m here to bring love and peace.”

State Rep. Amen Brown, who represents parts of West Philadelphia and Logan Square, spoke about his lived experience being a victim of gun violence, his experience with the prison system, as well as growing up in the same neighborhood he represents.

“I’m running to be our mayor to protect each and every one of you and your family members, your loved ones and your neighbors,” Brown said.

Judge James DeLeon opened his remarks saying “as far as the LGBTQ community is concerned, you are Philadelphia.” DeLeon also told the crowd about his time as Supervising Judge and leading initiatives to reduce the homicide rate.

“I’m running on a platform called the local incident plan,” DeLeon said, “which I’m going to bring to turn this city around in the sense that it will reduce gun violence and overturn poverty that’s been plaguing our city for so many years.”

Jeff Brown, who has run television ads touting his experience working outside of government, talked about his work building grocery stores in food deserts and hiring returning citizens.

“I don’t accept that our differences are more important than what brings us together,” Brown said. “I’ve seen it in my business. I’ve seen it across the city and I’ve seen it in my own family. That’s how I’ll approach our challenges as mayor.” Brown also said, “And I will tell you that this straight chubby white Jewish guy is going to be an ally to the LGBTQ community.”

Allan Domb began by thanking the 150+ attendees at the event, saying “it’s really reassuring to see how many people care so much about our city. That gives all of us tremendous hope.” Domb also spoke about his public safety plan that involves getting violent criminals off the street and helping police be more engaged in the neighborhoods they serve. 

“We have a public safety crisis. We have a jobs, housing crisis. We have a poverty crisis, and we have an education crisis, and they all connect,” Domb said. “But number one, in order for us to solve those crises, we need leadership.”

Derek Green focused his remarks on gun violence and how it disproportionately affects the Black community. He also spoke about his experience being racially profiled, as well as the importance of reducing discrimination of Black gay men in businesses including those in the gayborhood.

“I think Philadelphians around the city, especially this community, expect more and deserve better from our city,” Green said. “We have a lot of issues, public safety, economic development, housing, issues that you all know. You need to have a mayor that listens, and you expect more and deserve better from our city.”

Cherelle Parker talked about her longtime support of the LGBTQ community, including advocating for same-sex marriage during her time as a State Representative.

“Long before June 26, 2015 came, I advocated for same sex marriage in Harrisburg,” Parker said. “And I didn’t do it with a bullhorn, I did it in a place and space where there were real Republicans who we had to go try to convince to understand all of our humanity, and I shared my testimony about people who think and thought that my life and my voice didn’t matter.” Parker ended her remarks saying “Don’t listen to what people say. Check out what they do.”

Helen Gym opened her remarks with the need for affordable and accessible housing, as well as the need to address violence in the city, specifically against trans women of color as well as against students.

“That’s why I fought to make sure that every single school has an affirmative trans policy, and I fought against bullying and harassment in public schools well before I ever came on to City Council.”

Gym concluded her remarks saying “long before I ever came on to city council I stood with and for the LGBTQ+ community. I absolutely know the importance of places like William Way, I will continue to stand with it. Every single campaign I’ve ever run has had an LGBTQ Philadelphian, and you will see one in my administration.”

Maria Quiñones Sánchez spoke about the need for a mayor who “not only provides leadership, but can manage the difficult conversation we need to have about race and equity.” She recalled her experience growing up in North Philadelphia, living in public housing, being the first in her family to go to college, and choosing to enter public service.

“We can grow this city, help historically marginalized communities, and really put forward a welcoming city. That happens with leadership, and that happens with someone who believes in a process of having conversations, tough conversations,” Sánchez said. She also said “This is not a vanity campaign for me. This is about knowing that we have the opportunity to be the most affordable city where we can protect our most vulnerable communities.”

Rebecca Rhynhart, the evening’s penultimate speaker, talked about her work as City Controller and how she would be able to put that vision into practice as mayor. 

“As mayor, I will tackle gun violence and make our city safer. I will fix our education system. My daughter is in seventh grade in the public school system. We need to fix it and we can. And I will clean our streets and make our city services work for everyone. And most of all, I’ll stand up for every single person that makes up the diversity that we are.”

Mike Stack concluded the candidate introductions, telling the crowd about his work campaigning for marriage equality across Pennsylvania in 2014 before focusing his remarks on the need for criminal justice and policing reform.

“We believe in community policing, I think we need community policing on steroids. We don’t just need to like, get in there and walk the beat. We need to move into the community with the folks and let the folks know, we’re not just the cops, we’re your neighbor. We’re not going to show up after someone’s gets killed and take off the city. We’re gonna be here to stop it from happening.”

After the candidates gave their introductions, the floor was opened for them to mingle with the crowd and speak one on one. Among those in attendance was Nu’Rodney Prad, who serves as director for student engagement at Temple University. When asked what he would like to see in the next Mayor of Philadelphia, Prad said “I’m looking for someone who is inclusive and able to think holistically about protecting individual rights, but also looking to curtail some of the violence and systemic issues that have happened over the years.”

Election day in Philadelphia is Tuesday, May 16. For more information, visit vote.phila.gov/.

This article is a part of Every Voice, Every Vote, a collaborative project managed by The Lenfest Institute for Journalism. Lead support is provided by the William Penn Foundation with additional funding from The Lenfest Institute, Peter and Judy Leone, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Harriet and Larry Weiss, and the Wyncote Foundation, among others. To learn more about the project and view a full list of supporters, visit www.everyvoice-everyvote.org/. Editorial content is created independently of the project’s donors.