Brian Sims, three other LGBTQ candidates lose races in Pennsylvania.

Transgender community activist Deja Alvarez and LGBTQ rights and economic development advocate Jonathan Lovitz, who have both been involved in LGBTQ rights issues for many years, are running against each other and two men LGBTQ support heterosexuals for a seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in downtown Philadelphia.

Alvarez, Lovitz, public affairs consultant Ben Waxman and cafe owner and community activist Will Gross are running in the May 17 Democratic primary in the 182nd District, which includes Philadelphia’s “Gayborhood” and is thought to have more LGBTQ residents. than any other legislative district. in the state.

The seat has been held since 2013 by our gay representative Brian Sims, who is relinquishing the seat this year to run for Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania. Sims, a close friend and current roommate of Alvarez, endorsed her to succeed him as representative of the 182nd District.

Lovitz supporters have expressed concern that the Sims orchestrated a lobbying campaign that persuaded and possibly pressured the LGBTQ Victory Fund, the national group that raises money to help elect LGBTQ candidates to public office, to endorse Alvarez. Lovitz supporters argued that the Victory Fund should have endorsed him, remained neutral, or double-endorsed Alvarez and Lovitz as it has done in other races where LGBTQ candidates have faced off.

Lovitz supporters also point out that Lovitz has raised significantly more campaign funds than Alvarez and the other two candidates, making him a more viable candidate than Alvarez and the one with the best chance of being elected as anyone else. LGBTQ at 182nd District headquarters.

Elliot Imse, vice president of communications for the Victory Fund, who was just named executive director of sister organization Victory Institute, told the Washington Blade that about 11 LGBTQ elected officials from across the country sent the Victory Fund a letter. encouraging the band to endorse Alvarez. He said it was a “polite and respectful” letter.

He said the Victory Fund welcomes input from the community and supporters of all LGBTQ candidates on which candidates to endorse. According to Imse, it was the group’s 150-member campaign committee, made up of politically engaged activists from across the country, that voted for Alvarez after analyzing a wide range of factors in the race. But some critics familiar with the Victory Fund, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Sims supporters’ lobbying of board members was spotty and angered Victory Fund executives.

Although it has decided to endorse Alvarez, the Victory Fund views Lovitz as a highly qualified candidate who would be an excellent state legislator representing the interests of LGBTQ people in Pennsylvania, Imse said. But he said the group determined that Alvarez’s background and status as a trans Latina candidate made her the right fit for the job at the moment.

“Deja is a candidate whose name is extremely recognized in her district,” Imse said. “She’s worked in the district for decades,” he said, “from founding organizations to help homeless LGBTQ people to helping trans people through recovery programs, to providing COVID relief to immigrants and undocumented migrants,” he said.

“Deja is a Latinx trans woman and would be the first in the entire country elected to a state legislature,” he said, as well as the first trans person elected to the Pennsylvania legislature.

Alvarez is currently Director of Community Engagement for World Healthcare Infrastructures, a Philadelphia-based group that provides HIV/AIDS and other community health and social services. She is also the LGBTQ Care Coordinator for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and, among other positions, was appointed to a task force to create an LGBTQ Advisory Council for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office.

Lovitz supporters point to what they call his long and highly distinguished record as an advocate for LGBTQ rights and public policy and economic development issues that has resulted in endorsements from both unions and groups. representing small community businesses.

Lovitz served as senior vice president of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce from 2016 until he announced his candidacy for the State House seat last year. He joined the LGBT Chamber in 2015 as vice president of external affairs and director of the group’s New York branch.

He has been credited with helping to draft and pass more than 25 state and local laws, including in Pennsylvania, expanding economic opportunity for LGBTQ-owned businesses across the country, including millions of dollars in grants to small businesses to local and minority-owned businesses. In 2020, Lovitz co-founded PhillyVoting.org, an initiative to register and vote in Black and LGBTQ communities, which, among other things, resulted in the registration of over 300 new voters in the first month of the program.

The most recent campaign finance reports filed with the state campaign finance office show that as of January of this year, Lovitz’s campaign had raised $152,355. Reports show Waxman had raised $45,276, Alvarez $35,941 and Gross $22,134 as of the January filing period. The next set of financial reports was due for release on May 6.

Some critics of Alvarez have pointed out that she hasn’t lived in the 182nd District for a number of years and only recently returned to run for the State House seat. Imse called the claims unfair and misleading, saying Alvarez had recently been forced to find an apartment in another neighborhood outside the neighborhood due to the excessively high cost of living in the city center due to the gentrification.

Imse said Alvarez continued to work in the district and retained her “decades-long” ties to the district before returning to the district and becoming roommates with Sims to allow her and Sims to sharing living expenses in an expensive neighborhood.

Alvarez told the Blade that she and her supporters believed the rumors circulating that she was unqualified for the State House seat because she did not live in the district and had just returned were orchestrated by Lovitz and his campaign to discredit her.

She said she has lived in Philadelphia since the late 1990s and has lived and worked in the district most of the time for more than 20 years.

“The thing is, my opponent has been in Philadelphia for about three years,” she said. “As a woman of color, as a trans person and, yes, like a lot of Philadelphians, there was a time when I had to leave this neighborhood because I couldn’t afford to live here anymore,” Alvarez said. .

“But there’s not a single person out there and in that race who has both worked in that neighborhood, socialized in that neighborhood, and then come back and done all the work that I did in that neighborhood. , which I have been a part of for over half my life,” she said.

When asked to respond to Alvarez’s remarks, Lovitz said in an email that he had “a long-standing connection to Philadelphia that no one can dispute” and moved to 182nd district in 2017.

“What matters to me and to voters is not how long you’ve lived somewhere, but how much you’ve done to improve their lives since you’ve been there,” he said. “Since the day I returned home to Philadelphia, I have helped register over 1,000 voters through the PhillyVoting Project; protected women’s rights by volunteering as a Planned Parenthood escort in my neighborhood; raised millions for charity through the boards I sit on and the events I’ve had the honor of hosting; and much more because I love my city.

Additional information on each of the four candidates running in the Democratic primary can be found on their campaign websites, which show that each received endorsements from various advocacy or political organizations, with Alvarez, Lovitz and Waxman receiving endorsements from local and state elected officials: lovitzforpa.com, dejaforpa.com, votewaxman.com, WillforPA.com.

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