Here's the official statement on the gay or LGBT endorsement for Joe Hoeffel from Philadelphia:
Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club Endorses
Philadelphia, PA -Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club, the premiere Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender political organization in Pennsylvania, overwhelmingly endorsed Arlen Specter for U.S. Senate and Joe Hoeffel for Governor at a their annual primary endorsement meeting held at the William Way LGBT Community Center yesterday.
A motion from the endorsement committee to endorse Senator Specter was approved 32-22 and a motion to endorse Joe Hoeffel was approved 32-19.
"Arlen Specter and Joe Hoeffel both have long records advocating for the LGBT community and Liberty City is prepared to work hard to turnout voters for both candidates in the May 18th Primary Election," said Liberty City Co-Chair Micah Mahjoubian. "Both men demonstrated a clear understanding of our issues, and the willingness to act, which resonated with our members."
In the other races, former Philadelphia City Controller Jonathan Saidel was unanimously endorsed for Lieutenant Governor. Manan Trivedi received the endorsement in the race for Pennsylvania's 6th Congressional District. Incumbents Babette Josephs (whose district includes the William Way Community Center) and Mike O'Brien both received endorsements over open members of the LGBT community. Members of the organization spoke about the need to elect candidates from the community, but felt strongly about supporting incumbents that have been strong advocates for LGBT issues in Harrisburg.
Liberty City Co-Chair Adah Bush moderated the first half of the evening and was pleased with the process. "Even in the middle of some passionate debate from both sides, the level of civility and discourse was great to see. I know that not all members supported every candidate that was endorsed, but that speaks strongly about the openness of the process and the diversity of opinions represented by this organization," Bush said.
The club will now begin to implement an aggressive "get-out-the-vote" operation on behalf of all Liberty City endorsed candidates.
The complete slate of Liberty City endorsements are:
U.S. Senate-Arlen Specter
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Liberty City is a progressive, membership based, political action committee serving the greater Philadelphia region that works within the Democratic Party to achieve and sustain economic and social equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons.
From the moment that Democrat Joe Hoeffel got into the race for governor, there's been little question that his social policies are the most friendly toward abortion rights advocates and gay rights advocates. This week Hoeffel was rewarded for those stances, with significant endorsements from one of the state's most prominent LGBT groups and from the state's Planned Parenthood political action committee.
Hoeffel, the Montgomery County commissioner and former congressman, was endorsed Wednesday night by the Liberty City Democratic Club in Philadelphia. Hoeffel won the group's backing with 32 of the 51 votes, and has now netted strong support from LGBT constituencies across Pennsylvania. On Thursday morning, Hoeffel was unanimously endorsed by Planned Parenthood's Pennsylvania PAC.
"More than any other candidate in this race, Joe Hoeffel understands that people need information and options so that they can make responsible life decisions," Sari Stevens, executive director of the group's PAC, said in a statement. "But we also need responsible government to ensure women and men have access to safe, affordable, preventative care. Joe understands the role of government in private medical decisions and we look forward to working with him as Governor of Pennsylvania."
In an interview Thursday afternoon, Hoeffel said the endorsements served as recognition of his long record supporting equality and reproductive freedom.
"I'm delighted," Hoeffel said. "I feel very strongly that our laws should treat people equally, that everyone should have full civil rights."
Of the Planned Parenthood endorsement, he said: "I have always supported women's reproductive freedoms, and I was thrilled to be endorsed for my career-long view."
When the Liberty City Democratic Club voted on its endorsements Wednesday night, it also backed Senator Arlen Specter for reelection, Democrat Jonathan Saidel for Lieutenant Governor and Democrat Manan Trivedi in the 6th Congressional District.
"Arlen Specter and Joe Hoeffel both have long records advocating for the LGBT community and Liberty City is prepared to work hard to turnout voters for both candidates in the May 18th Primary Election," Liberty City co-chair Micah Mahjoubian said in a statement. "Both men demonstrated a clear understanding of our issues, and the willingness to act, which resonated with our members."
Members of the LGBT community turned out in force April 1 at Tabu for a meet-and-greet with nearly 20 political candidates who are seeking LGBT support in next month's primary.
The event, organized by Liberty City Democratic Club, drew about 150 community members, about which Liberty City co-chair Micah Mahjoubian said he was "pleasantly surprised."
On Tuesday, Liberty City hosted a similar event at Q and the organization's endorsement meeting was scheduled for April 7.
A longtime member of the Liberty City Democratic Club and the former deputy secretary of external affairs under Mayor Street is now the head of the LGBT political organization.
The Liberty City board voted Feb. 17 to elect Micah Mahjoubian as its co-chair after Gregory Walker, who was recently elected alongside Adah Bush, stepped down for personal reasons.
Mahjoubian has been a member of Liberty City since 1997 and served on the group's board off and on throughout the decade, and most recently was elected in January 2008.
Mahjoubian said that when the opportunity recently arose to take on the leadership role, he jumped at it.
"I have a strong passion for Liberty City; I think there are a lot of great LGBT organizations out there doing important bipartisan work, but I am a strong advocate of the Democratic Party and I believe we need to have LGBT points of view represented within our party," he said. "Liberty City really is the only organization in Philadelphia that has that mission, and I wanted to certainly be as much a part of this organization as I could."
Mahjoubian said he and Bush plan to fuse their backgrounds to benefit Liberty City.
"It's going to be a great partnership. The way we look at it, she brings a fresh energy, being newer to the board, and she's already shown the ability to bring new ideas and passion to the work that is very exciting," he said. "And I have the more longtime experience, being a political consultant and knowing the political players, so I think the two of us will make a great team."
Mahjoubian was a member of Street's administration for eight years and made headlines in 2007 when he and partner Ryan Bunch were joined in a commitment ceremony in City Hall, over which Street presided.
Mahjoubian now works as a political consultant, and said the political ties he's established have already benefited the LGBT community.
He previously worked on John Dougherty's campaign for state Senate and facilitated a meeting between Dougherty and Carrie Jacobs, executive director of The Attic Youth Center. After meeting the youth at the center, Mahjoubian said Dougherty, a local labor leader, was motivated to rewire the entire building to ensure it would be up to electrical codes, an in-kind donation that Mahjoubian said would have cost The Attic $70,000.
"Those are the kinds of unusual connections that I want to make and that I want to bring to Liberty City," Mahjoubian said. "My strength in the community is the close relationships I've developed with many people who you might not always think of as part of our political base. And I want to build coalitions with other Democratic power centers. I don't think we're most effective if we just preach to the choir, if we just organize amongst ourselves. We need to begin dialogues with building trade unions or black clergy or the Democratic Party itself. We certainly want to remain a strong independent organization, but I think we need to also build our relationships."
Currently, Mahjoubian is working on the campaign to re-elect U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, as well as on Sharif Street's bid for state representative, but said his own political leanings will not influence his work at Liberty City.
"I certainly want to make it clear that I am a political consultant, and while I'm paid by both campaigns, I informally advise a lot of others. I want to be completely transparent about that and about who I'm personally working with," he said. "We are an organization of political people, and many of us have been involved with different campaigns, which I think is part of the strength of our organization. But when it comes time for running endorsement meetings and other things like that, I'll certainly take a step back and defer to my co-chair to lead those efforts."
In addition to broadening its community connections, Mahjoubian said Liberty City also has a lot of internal "building" he'd like to see happen, particularly with the creation of new committees comprised of Liberty City members.
He said the organization's issues committee has already been very successful in mobilizing around HB 300, the statewide nondiscrimination bill, and in supporting the effort to remove the gender stickers from SEPTA passes.
Mahjoubian said he's also interested in the issues committee hosting a platform convention, during which members can create an official platform of issues and policy items that Liberty City wants to advocate for, which he said will not only help the group to organize itself but could also help motivate a new batch of activists.
The LGBT and ally community is invited to join Liberty City for two upcoming candidate nights, March 18 and 22, at the William Way LGBT Community Center, 1315 Spruce St. to hear from candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, U.S. Senate and the Pennsylvania legislature. Both events will start at 6 p.m.
Adah Bush, one-half of the new leadership at Liberty City Democratic Club, is looking to fuse her passion for social-justice work with her adeptness at grassroots activism to create viable change for the LGBT community through the local political landscape.
Bush, who was elected alongside Gregory Walker as the co-chairs of the LGBT political group in November, moved to Philadelphia about 10 years ago from her native Utah.
Before heading east, Bush had worked in the area of HIV/AIDS prevention and also provided health-education outreach to ethnic minorities.
As a Native American, Bush said she's always felt a pull toward advocacy work on behalf of marginalized populations.
"I have an enlarged sense of justice," Bush said. "Even as a child, if I didn't think something was fair, I'd have to say so. I'm one of those people who if I see some injustice being done, I want to help and guide efforts to stop that. That's just an innate part of me."
While in Utah, Bush was involved in an effort to counter legislation that sought to institute an "English-only" policy for all state-printed materials.
"I networked with a lot of other organizations and collaborated and brought in a lot of new people to work on this," she said, noting she gained support from the hearing- and visually impaired, as well as from Navajo "code takers," whose language proved invaluable in World War II.
The measure was eventually defeated in 1999.
"People in favor of this had argued that there was just a small group of people who would be impacted, but we tried to show that there were many, many people who'd actually be impacted," Bush said. "And I think that's something that we in the LGBT community need to embrace more. We need to realize that it's not just us; we have family members, coworkers and friends who are impacted when we're discriminated against and who more than likely would be willing to battle with us for these rights."
Since Bush moved to Philly to be closer to her partner, Sheri, she has volunteered as a juror and screener for QFest and worked with Sheri on numerous events staged by Mountain Meadow, a summer program for children of LGBT parents.
Bush works in contracting at GlaxoSmithKline and is a member of the organization's LGBT employee network.
She said she was involved in the "periphery" of Liberty City in recent years and took on a more active role during the 2008 presidential election.
"I had been volunteering, going door-to-door on behalf of Liberty City, and then started becoming more involved because of the election when I saw how important that was," she said. "I realized early on that if we could get a majority of voters in Philadelphia to vote Democrat that we could take the state and could make real progress for equality for LGBTQ communities."
Bush said that Obama's success, as well as the election of many other LGBT-supportive candidates in the area, illustrated the hard work of such groups as Liberty City.
"Through the get-out-the-vote initiative, I realized what an impact Liberty City can have on furthering the equal-rights fight in our community. They really have a lot of ability to get people elected who are supportive of the community, which can be very important for our progress."
Bush said she also hopes to institute a system to measure how well those candidates-turned-elected-officials are living up to their promises to the LGBT community.
"Liberty City has worked very hard to get certain candidates elected, but right now there hasn't been much documentation on how supportive these candidates actually are once they're in office," she said, noting that one of her goals for the agency is the development of a "scorecard" to track elected officials' LGBT positions. "This would show whether or not candidates are supporting issues like ENDA, what they've done on our behalf. And if there are candidates who are voting against our issues, it sends a message to Liberty City that these candidates shouldn't be supported in the next election."
Bush is also hoping Liberty City can launch an initiative similar to its 1998 effort to train dozens of LGBT individuals to run as Democratic committeepersons, which resulted in 33 of the 36 candidates getting elected.
Liberty City will host elections for new board members at 6 p.m. Jan. 28 at the William Way LGBT Community Center, 1315 Spruce St., Bush said the organization is hoping to expand its leadership to include more representatives of the transgender and ethnic minority communities.
"We're trying to be as diverse as possible so we can fully represent the community. This organization is open to everyone, and we need people from all of our communities to show that," she said.
Prior to the board elections, board member Micah Mahjoubian will lead an "Election 101" discussion, Bush said, during which he'll explain the ins and outs of this spring's primary process and provide an overview of the candidates' positions.
Bush encouraged all LGBT and ally community members to attend the meeting to educate themselves about the upcoming election and to strengthen Liberty City's capabilities.
"We need everyone's support both financially and by actual bodies; we need people to come support us so we can support candidates who will work on our behalf," she said. "I think it's really important this year to have a really strong showing at the polls by our community so people can see that we're here, we're not going away and we're going to continue to fight for our civil rights."