With the municipal primary just weeks away, an openly gay candidate vying to represent Philadelphia’s Gayborhood in Harrisburg has picked up key LGBT endorsements.
Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club voted Tuesday night to endorse attorney Brian Sims for the 182nd District in the Pennsylvania House. Sims is challenging longtime incumbent and LGBT ally Rep. Babette Josephs (D-182nd Dist.).
Additionally, Equality Pennsylvania, of which Sims was formerly president, also endorsed him this week.
The Liberty City endorsement came after a lengthy debate that split the room at Gershman Y.
The endorsement committee, which makes recommendations to the general membership, backed Josephs for endorsement, but the membership voted down that recommendation, 24-14.
Supporters of both candidates took the floor in their favor in a discussion that endorsement committee chair Sara Jacobson said was “spirited but respectful.”
“People felt very strongly on both sides,” she said. “People spoke out in support of Babette and people spoke out in support of Brian, so there was a lot of support on both sides.”
The eventual endorsement was made in a 22-12 vote, Jacobson said.
Jacobson declined to specify why the committee was favoring an endorsement for Josephs, but said that decision was preceded by an involved and purposeful conversation.
“We spent a very long time talking about it, probably as long as we did talking about every other race on the ticket,” she said. “It was a very thoughtful discussion.”
A lot of attention was also given to the 188th District race, in which longtime incumbent James Roebuck is being challenged by bisexual candidate Fatimah Muhammad. The endorsement committee made no recommendation in that race, but the membership voted to endorse Muhammad following a debate that Jacobson noted had a different focus than that of the 182nd.
“The 182nd debate had more to do with the people involved, with people speaking out in support of Brian or Babette as a person, but the 188th debate was more philosophical,” Jacobson said. “The members talked about the idea of if Liberty City should support an out candidate or an incumbent who’s been in office for a while, and who’s been supportive of our issues.”
There was also some back and forth about Sen. Bob Casey. The committee recommended, and members voted to support, that the agency not make an endorsement in that race but instead will reconsider it in the fall.
Jacobson said that, while the senator has supported the community in many instances in the past, there were a number of issues that gave the organization “pause” — such as his lack of support for marriage equality and for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, as well as his recent backing of an anti-birth-control measure.
Endorsement committee member Jason Lewis said that, even if the lack of endorsement in the primary “moves the senator a centimeter” forward on LGBT issues, it would be successful.
Liberty City, as well as Equality PA, also endorsed President Obama for reelection, former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy for Attorney General and Eugene DePasquale for Auditor General.
Other state candidates endorsed by Liberty City were incumbent Sen. Larry Farnese (1st Dist.); incumbent Reps. Mike O’Brien (175th Dist.), Vanessa Lowry-Brown (190th Dist.), Cherelle Parker (200th Dist.) and Mark Cohen (202nd Dist.); challengers Andrew Kleeman (195th Dist.) and Malik Boyd (198th Dist.); and Steve McCarter (154th Dist.) and Jordan Harris (186th Dist.), who are seeking to fill recent vacancies.