Two Out Candidates Run for City Council

Malcolm Lazin and Sherrie Cohen could make history. Get to know them here.

Both a Democrat and Republican are making history by announcing their candidacies for City Council this year. If elected, they would become the first openly gay council members ever to serve in Philadelphia. They would follow in the footsteps of the Honorable Ann Butchart, a lesbian who won her race for Common Pleas Court Judge in 2005 as the first-ever openly gay person to be elected to office in Philly – and the Honorable Dan Anders, who was elected to judgeship in 2007.

Here’s the scoop on both candidates in time for the May 17 primary (please note that these profiles only reflect openly gay or lesbian candidates and not the full list of candidates seeking council seats).

Sherrie Cohen (Democrat At-Large)

Courtesy of Sherrie Cohen

Age: 55

Job: Attorney with Kirkland and Associates and social activist with The Coalition for Essential Services

Residence: Olney

Key issues: Job creation; green economy; literacy; crime reduction; LGBT equality; fighting against economic, racial and gender injustices; affordable housing and food; small business advocacy; education and health care reform; support for city-wide services

Education: Girls High, University of Pennsylvania and St. Thomas School of Law

Endorsement: Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund

Achievements: Helped to pass the gay rights protection bill in 1982; fought to keep 11 Philadelphia libraries open; co-chair of the Civil Rights Committee of the Philadelphia Bar Association; 2008 Pennsylvania Fellow at the Center for Progressive Leadership; coordinator of labor and community relations for the Coalition of Essential Services; activist with Coalition to Save Our Libraries; Democratic State Committee member for the 4th State Senatorial District; vice president of the LGBT caucus of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party; block captain of 5600 block of N. 16th St.

Award: “Champion for the Greater Good” award from the Friends of the Free Library

Surprising fact: She was kicked out of council chambers – and down four flights of stairs – when working to pass the gay rights protection bill.

Political connections: Her father David Cohen was a city councilman for 29 years; her mother Florence Herzog Cohen was a former Democratic city activist; brother Mark Cohen is a State Representative; brother Denis is a judge with the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas; and she was an active volunteer and fundraiser for Judge Ann Butchart’s campaign.

What we learned on Facebook: She’s a supporter of local organizations like Community PROMISE and Direct Action Welfare Group. She also likes “The Cho Show,” reads the Philadelphia Weekly and knows who the Liberty City Kings are.

Malcolm Lazin (Republican At-Large)

Courtesy of Malcolm Lazin

Age: 67

Job: Attorney and executive director of Equality Forum

Residence: Society Hill

Key issues: Finance reform; ending DROP and school bullying; generating new revenue; better overall regulations and business practices in the city

Education: Lebanon High School, Lebanon Valley College and Boston University School of Law

Achievements: Former federal prosector who led grand jury investigations into public corruption; former commissioner and chair of the Pennsylvania Crime Commission investigating organized crime; former partner at Fell Spauding Goff & Rubin law firm; former president of Penn’s Landing Development Corporation; former president of Philadelphia Waterfront Developers Council; former president of the Society Hill Civic Association; former chair of the Philadelphia Waterfront Developers Council; former chair of the Washington Square Committee; member of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce; member of the Board of Trustees of Lebanon Valley College; producer of three award-winning documentary films

Political connections: He ran as a Republican candidate for district attorney in 1977 and was the Philadelphia co-chair for Citizens for Dick Thornburgh in 1978

Surprising fact: He came up with the idea to light the Ben Franklin Bridge – and eventually raised the money to make it happen.

Awards: U.S. Attorney’s Distinguished Service Award from the Department of Justice; 2005 Creative Leadership in Human Rights Award from the National Education Association; 2006 Distinguished Alumnus Award from Lebanon Valley College; 2007 Prime Mover of the Hunt Alternatives Fund

What we learned from Facebook: He digs Joseph Hallman and the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.