Out candidates Deja Alvarez, Brian Sims, Malcolm Kenyatta, and Jonathan Lovitz lost their primary election bids (Philadelphia Gay News photo collage).
By Mark Segal
First the good news: all the out candidates for Democratic State Committee won their primary elections. They all worked their wards, became a part of their districts, did the work over a long period of time, and were rewarded by the community for it. Congratulations to Micah Mahjoubian, Rick Lombardo, John Brady, and Mariel Martin.
Next comes the U.S. Senate race, where for our purposes we’ll concentrate on the race through the lens of the out statewide candidate, Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Philadelphia, vs. what was the giant figure of current Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.
On a statewide level, Fetterman was a juggernaut, winning over 59 percent of the vote. But Kenyatta did better than the polls suggested, and more importantly, in Philadelphia he came in second, and almost beat Fetterman. That is incredible. And it bodes well for Kenyatta’s future in political office.
In the race for lieutenant governor, the other out candidate for statewide office, Rep. Brian Sims, D-Philadelphia, lost resoundingly to fellow state Rep. Austin Davis, D-Allegheny.
This didn’t come as a surprise, since a majority of the Democratic state legislature, a majority of Pennsylvania’s out elected officials, and a long list of state LGBTQ activists endorsed Davis.
The reasons that so many endorsed Davis over Sims have been detailed in this column and others. Sims was a bad candidate from the start due to a lot of past baggage and controversy. And he didn’t learn from his past and try to make it any better this election season; he just continued his intimidation and deceptive tactics, most recently in one of his television ads that misleadingly implied he was endorsed by gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro.
In the end, Sims lost statewide by 25 points, his base Philadelphia by about 15 points, and even the wards that make up the gayborhood. Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and the Gayborhood all rejected Sims and united behind Austin Davis.
Then there is the state representative race in the 182nd district, which includes the Gayborhood. The most liberal district in the State had two out candidates, Deja Alvarez and Jonathan Lovitz.
Both lost by a wide margin to longtime LGBTQ ally Ben Waxman. Out of four candidates, Lovitz came in third and Alvarez came in fourth. The biggest misconception of this race is that some believe the LGBTQ community makes up a larger share of the district than it actually does. We’ve always stated that the LGBTQ voters in the 182nd district was somewhere between 5 percent and 10 percent, meaning they can affect an outcome but cannot single handedly decide it. It also didn’t help that the two LGBTQ candidates were competing for a similar pool of voters.
But the 182nd District race was also representative of, and affected by, a battle within our own community of gender and classism. And that battle was highlighted the night before the election by Deja Alvarez, who sent out a campaign appeal and said of her opponents in the race: “Wealth, access, and resources come easier to those who fit the mold — generally, white cis men from a certain background.”
The last part of that, “from a certain background” has a whole host of connotations, but the first thing that came to my mind was that all three of her opponents were Jewish. Coming at the very end of a campaign, that email was divisive in an unfortunate way. It was a last ditch effort to raise a couple dollars, but it didn’t make up for what was a poorly run campaign.
Liberty City LGBTQ Democratic club was the only LGBTQ state organization to endorse Sims and Alvarez, who was Sims’ handpicked replacement for his seat.
Both were defeated handily. While personal endorsements can reflect a single person’s views, an organization that is trying to build itself up and be taken seriously as a political force needs to be more in touch with the community they represent.
Both of those endorsements show that Liberty City was out of touch with the wider LGBTQ community in this election. They got caught up in issues including the divides that I explained above. But Liberty City is an important part of the LGBTQ community, and we should support them as they rebuild.
That won’t happen until that war within our community starts to change, when the majority finally grows tired of being lectured to by a small group of biased, politically correct people trying to intimidate them.
Mark Segal is the founder and publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News, a publishing partner of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where this column first appeared.
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