The Lead

Philly Rep. Brian Sims says he’ll seek Dem nod for Lt. Gov in 2022

By: - February 15, 2021 11:41 am

Rep. Brian Sims, D-Philadelphia, being sworn in in 2021. (Courtesy of Pa. House)

The first out LGBTQ person elected to be a state lawmaker in Pennsylvania has announced he’s running for lieutenant governor.

Rep. Brian Sims, D-Philadelphia, announced his candidacy in 2022 for the statewide post on Monday, while decrying Pennsylvania’s “broken politics.”

“We need adults in the room, and I want to bring bold, visionary leadership based on lived experiences to the commonwealth,” Sims said in a video posted to social media.

An attorney by trade, Sims first rose to prominence by beating a longtime Democratic incumbent in a Center City Philadelphia district in 2012.

While not the first openly LGBTQ person to serve in Harrisburg — a central Pennsylvania Republican legislator came out and then lost his next primary in 2014 — Sims has become a vocal advocate on issues of civil rights, and social justice.

Sims has embraced the role of heel to many of his conservative colleagues, such as Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, who called Sims a “lying homosexual” in a 2018 Facebook rant.

But Sims has also been at the center of controversy. For example, a phone call between Sims and a Republican colleague in summer 2020 led the GOP lawmaker to call the cops. 

Sims also filmed himself harassing teenagers protesting outside a Philadelphia Planned Parenthood office, and offered money to identify them. His GOP colleagues threatened Sims with censure for the incident.

“Bring it, Bible Bullies,” he tweeted as criticisms grew. A few months later. Sims privately apologized to the teens.

Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor has few official duties. They chair the state Board of Pardons, which oversees clemency for prisoners, and presides over the state Senate. They only cast a tie breaking vote on procedural motions.

However, as shown by current Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the position comes with a large bully pulpit that can be used to build a politician’s stature.

Sims would not be on his own in the 2022 general election. The lieutenant governor runs on a ticket with the gubernatorial nominee, which most Democrats expect to be Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

Under the state constitution, however, the lieutenant governor hopefuls run in a separate primary from the governor. The resulting ticket is thus a shotgun marriage, which can have unintended results, such as Gov. Tom Wolf and his first Lt. Gov Mike Stack.

A constitutional amendment to change this system could reach voters as early as November. It would make the gubernatorial nominee pick their lieutenant governor after their primary win. Thirteen other states use the same system.

Such a measure could make Sims’ campaign, and any other potential candidates’, somewhat redundant. 

The General Assembly passed the amendment last session with bipartisan support, and it now only needs to pass the Senate and House again before voters are called to ratify it.

On the Democratic side, state Rep. Austin Davis, D-Allegheny, confirmed his interest in running for lieutenant governor. Lehigh County Controller Mark Pinsley was also mentioned as a candidate.

On the Republican side, Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale was mentioned as a potential candidate.

Sims’ announcement comes as the 2022 election cycle, despite it being 15 months away, heats up. Fetterman announced his run for U.S. Senate last week, while rumors of new candidates stepping in continue to circulate.

Toomey’s exit kick-starts 2022 guesswork among Pa. politicos

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.