Philly Dems vying for House of Sims seat make their case to LGBTQ voters
(*This story was updated at 10:52 a.m. Wednesday, 3/30/22 to add attribution to comments made by House candidate Deja Lynn Alvarez)
By Michele Zipkin
PHILADELPHIA CREAM – Three of the four Democratic hopefuls seeking to succeed retired state Rep. Brian Sims faced the votes at a recent public forum, answering questions on issues such as how they would win the passing a long-delayed LGBTQ civil rights bill and making Pennsylvania the largest city more attractive for business.
Philadelphia’s 182nd District online forum, sponsored by the Liberty City LGBTQ Democratic Club, took place on March 24. The incumbent, Representative Brian Sims, D-Philadelphia, leaves the seat to seek the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor.
In round-robin fashion, Liberty City board member Ted Bordelon posed member-submitted and board-organized questions to three of the candidates vying to represent the Gayborhood at State. House.
The nominees are: Deja Lynn Alvarez, Director of Community Engagement for World Healthcare Infrastructures and LGBTQ Care Coordinator for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health; Jonathan Lovitz, Special Advisor and Former Senior Vice President of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC); and Ben Waxman, former director of communications for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office.
Meet the Dems vying to replace Representative Brian Sims at the State House
The order of the answers was drawn by lot. The fourth contestant in the race, Will Gross, was not present and submitted a pre-recorded video.
The first question asked was “What would you do if elected to finally get Pennsylvania’s equality bill across the finish line?” Please be specific and aware that Democrats cannot take over the State House or the Senate.
“In the minority especially, there’s a lot of leverage during the budget process,” Waxman said. “What we need is a group of lawmakers who are willing to stand up and say they will not vote for any state budget deal that does not include the major elements or all the elements of an LGBTQ+ program. This means enshrining marriage equality in the Pennsylvania constitution; it means protecting people against discrimination in employment; that means pushing back against all those anti-trans bills that pop up and making sure our healthcare system is especially supportive of people who are in the middle of transition. So, to me, we need a group of lawmakers who simply won’t support a budget deal unless these bills pass, to pressure the leaders of both parties to do so.
“It’s about building relationships. It’s about building those relationships, nurturing those relationships, and using those relationships to move the needle forward,” Alvarez said. “To be completely honest, the Equality Bill, unless we take control of the house, doesn’t have much of a chance of passing. But what we can do is fight the other individual bills that come up, to make sure we don’t allow them to pass while we push for the equality bill. One of the other things I think we can do is use our platforms to help elect other Democrats in those Republican strongholds.
“I think it’s analogous to something like the right to vote,” Lovitz said. “If we don’t guarantee the most basic principles of equality, opportunity, existence, health care, etc., we will continually push a rock up. I agree with many of the comments of my colleagues that there is room for negotiation. I think that is why it is so important to send someone who has a proven track record to make sure that we can build on the other side of the ‘aisle and get the yes. It’s wonderful to have a thousand likes on an Instagram post, but if you can’t get ten votes across the aisle, you’re not an effective legislator. .
Philadelphia’s economic recovery
The second question was about the economic recovery in Philadelphia and how the city is not doing as well as many other similar American cities when it comes to crime rates, cleanliness and cost of doing business. “How are you going to help businesses, especially LGBTQ-owned businesses in the 182nd [District] survive and thrive over the next two pivotal years? Bordelon asked.
“It’s core to my experience and why I know I will be so effective in this role for our city and our entire Commonwealth,” Lovitz said. “The first statewide piece of legislation that I helped my advocacy team draft and pass was Governor Wolf’s 2016 Executive Order that added LGBTQ and disability-owned businesses to the Pennsylvania State contracts. The reason we did this is exactly the reason we’re going to be able to replicate this here in Philadelphia, because I’m currently working with several city council members.
Helping Transgender People Navigate State Bureaucracy
Another question posed was what candidates would do to improve processes trans people must navigate at the state level, such as having their name changed on a driver’s license.
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“It’s something I have some experience with, and it’s something I do on a regular basis,” Alvarez said. “I was part of this campaign for SEPTA to stop [the gender marker policy.] I have also worked tirelessly for years to get rid of the policy that you must publish your name change request in the newspapers. We found a workaround. What we were able to do was write a letter of security concerns.
She pointed out that there are programs to help trans people with the cost of changing their name on their ID card. She also noted that it is not always necessary to hire a lawyer, that the process of filing documents is not as complicated as it once was.
Pa. Senate bills aim to make name changes easier for transgender Pennsylvanians | Wednesday morning coffee
“Being realistic here, getting a statewide policy change on this issue, when right now we are just fighting to allow trans girls to go in a locker room or a bathroom, n is not something realistic that I consider [happening] in the next two years,” Alvarez said. “But that’s one more reason why we need effective representation in Harrisburg.”
How would they be different from The Sims?
Another question, posed by one of the Liberty City members, was “If you are [Rep. Brian Sims’] successor, what can 182nd voters expect to be different? »
“I’m not going to run on social media every time I have something to say,” Waxman said. “In particular, I’m obviously going to have many differences with my fellow Democrats, but I’m not going to publicly attack my colleagues, especially my fellow House members, pretty much ever.” Waxman continued, “As I got older, I respected the need for compromise. Not just compromise on issues, but if I don’t get something I want, I’m okay with that, and that doesn’t mean a relationship is going to be destroyed or that I’m going to criticize people publicly. ”
* “Politics is a lot of marketing,” Alvarez said. “It’s not just about marketing yourself, but it should be about marketing the issues that you’re fighting for, the issues that are on the table. Every piece of legislation that you’re trying to get passed, the broader conversations that are going to affect your constituents, all of that has to be communicated effectively, not just thrown on your social media, but you should have meetings, you should reach out to them . There should be a direct line between you and your constituents.
“I think there are a lot of people,” Lovitz said, “who think your legislator’s role is to help get the paperwork done and to go to Harrisburg and vote, as opposed to being your champion, your ally, your agent for your own success I want my downtown office to have a job site, training programs, and community engagement opportunities Every nonprofit should be able to come to our office and be able to engage with the community.”
Other questions asked candidates to debunk the biggest misconception about them or their platform, why representation in government matters, and why each candidate thinks they deserve the LGBTQ vote.
“LGBT people, we’re women, we’re people of color, we’re veterans, we’re immigrants,” Lovitz said in response to the final question. “Being able to leverage my place at the center of this hub from an LGBT perspective and work with all of these communities will only strengthen me as an advocate.”
“For the past 20+ years, I’ve been at the forefront of just about every LGBTQ fight there’s been in this city,” Alvarez said. “Not just for LGBTQ people, but for other marginalized populations. This all comes from my lived experience. I think what is missing in politics today is the lived experience, the voices of the most marginalized.
“I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I’ve had the experience that the other two contestants who are on this Zoom have,” Waxman said. “What I can promise is this: When we finish this primary and get to May, whoever wins, I’ll be there, as I have been for 20 years.”
Liberty City will host two more candidate forums, April 5 and 7, where state and federal political candidates can explain why they deserve the Philly LGBTQ vote. The Liberty City team is also recruiting new board members “to make it feel more like Philly,” Bordelon said. Those interested in becoming a member of the Board of Directors can email [email protected]
“I think there was a lot of energy that led to the adoption of marriage equality,” Bordelon said. “But I think what we’re seeing now with the ‘don’t say gay’ bills, with legislation against trans athletes in schools – I think the fight for LGBTQ rights is still very important and [Liberty City] tries to present a safe place for people in Philadelphia to work on these issues.
Michele Zipkin is a reporter for the Philadelphia Gay News, where this story first appeared.