Meet PA’s Three Out Candidates

The state could make political history this year

For the first time in the state’s history, three out Democratic candidates are seeking seats this year. One faces another Democrat. And two face Republicans. If any of them are successful, it could mean that the LGBT community will finally have a voice in the state house – a first for the commonwealth.

Courtesy of Brian Sims

Here in Philly, Brian Sims is seeking to unseat Rep. Babette Josephs. What makes this race so unique is that Josephs – also a Democrat – has long been considered an ally to the LGBT community, begging the question of whether gay and lesbian voters will stick with the longtime incumbent or throw their support toward Sims, an openly gay man who, if elected, would become the first-ever out person to hold the office in the state. Sims had also served as campaign treasurer for Josephs just two years ago.

Recently, though, Sims challenged the longtime legislator over a controversy with the “Year of the Bible,” an embarrassing proclamation that Josephs helped to pass and later apologized for supporting.

“I call on Representative Josephs to reconcile her contradictory statements to constituents and the press regarding her vote on HR 535,” says Sims, taking a hard line and accusing Josephs of telling voters one thing about the controversial resolution and then saying something else to the press. “We deserve better work from our elected officials.”

Elsewhere in the commonwealth, Christopher Dietz and Kelly McEntee are also running for the house in Dauphin County and Lower Paxton Twp., respectively. According to his website, Dietz, a former Boy Scout, has been president of the borough council where he’s secured more than a half a million dollars of funding from the state to build Millersberg Riverfront Park. He’s also a member of the Stonewall Democrats and Center for Progressive Leadership.

Courtesy of Christopher Dietz

“Years of public service in municipal government have equipped me with the experience and vigor to advocate for my fellow residents of the 104th,” says Dietz. “At a time when state government should be helping the citizens that elected them, our legislature is more disconnected than ever from the common citizen.”

He says he seeks to create more jobs within the community and conserve the state’s green space. “It is time for our state government to reaffirm its commitment to making Pennsylvania the best state in which to live, work, play, and raise a family,” he says, helping to also make that definition of “family” a bit more inclusive.

McEntee, meanwhile, is a newcomer to politics as she takes on Rep. Ron Marsico in the 105th. And like Dietz, she, too, is treading in traditional Republican territory far outside of the Gayborhood where many of Sims voters live and work.

“It’s not my motivation for running, but it is part of who I am,” McEntee told The Patriot News about her sexual orientation. “For me, this race is more about holding our current incumbent accountable for his votes.” She lives with her partner Angela Dicks in Linglestown.

Courtesy of Kelly McEntee

And while McEntee comes from an engineering background with no political experience, she is very active within the community, working on behalf of suicide prevention, for LGBT groups and as a charter member of the Linglestown Area Civic Association.

Ted Martin, executive director of Equality Pennsylvania – for which Sims is the former board president – told  The Patriot News recently about this history-making election year, saying, “It’s very exciting and it’s not going to go away. It’s within the lifetimes of many people in Pennsylvania that gay people were thought of as sick, or cast aside. So it’s a remarkable amount of progress that these people can run openly.”

The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, a political action committee that advocates for LGBT voices in government from its Washington D.C. headquarters, reports that at least 30 states now have elected gay state lawmakers. And this year, the group has endorsed 77 openly LGBT candidates so far in 2012 races.

“The pace of endorsement through the first two months of the year suggests we very well could break our previous record,” explains Tiffany Muller, the Victory Fund’s vice president of political operations. “That’s a sign that LGBT Americans are increasingly involving themselves in electoral politics.”

A list of the Victory Fund’s endorsed candidates can be found here.