State House Candidate Ben Waxman on Running as an LGBTQ Ally

The former political staffer and journalist believes he has what it takes to win over LGBTQ voters against out incumbent Brian Sims.

Ben Waxman is running for State Representative of the 182nd district, which occupies the Gayborhood;photo provided by Waxman.

Ben Waxman is running for representative of the 182nd District, which includes the Gayborhood; photo provided by Waxman.

What is the primary reason you’re running for office?
Over the past four years, Republicans in Harrisburg cut over $400 million from Philadelphia’s public schools. The results have been catastrophic. We have an entire generation of students who don’t have access to a guidance counselor, full-time nurse, or extracurricular programs. Class sizes have exploded, with more than 30 students in a classroom. That is unacceptable and will have devastating consequences for the entire city. I’m running now because the Pennsylvania House of Representatives is ground zero for this fight, and Philadelphia needs a champion in Harrisburg.

Your district contains the Gayborhood. How does your platform consider the needs of the district’s diverse LGBTQ community?
I strongly believe in challenging all systems of oppression, which is why I have a long history of working as an ally to the LGBT community during my 15 years as a progressive activist and organizer. I’m proud to have written editorials when I was at the Philadelphia Daily News about marriage equality and the need to pass a comprehensive non-discrimination law. I’m proud to have helped register and mobilize hundreds of LGBT voters in the 2012 election. And I’m proud to have worked for Senator Vincent Hughes and the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Caucus, both of which have been steadfast supporters of LBGT equality in Harrisburg. I think the more people learn about my record and activism, the more they will see that I can be a strong advocate for all of our communities.

The 182nd District’s incumbent is the openly gay state Rep. Brian Sims. How do you make the case to LGBTQ voters that you can better serve them as an ally?
I respect the incumbent’s role as a trailblazer, but I question his commitment to the district. He’s been in office for less than two terms and passed zero legislation as a primary sponsor. And, with that record, he decided he was ready to run for Congress. Then, after spending seven months raising money all over the country, he abruptly dropped out of the race. The voters of the 182nd will need to make their own judgment about where his priorities are.

What about this moment in the city’s political climate induced you to run?
Philadelphia is going through a major transition right now, both culturally and politically. I hope to be a bridge between folks who have been here for a long time and the people who are relatively new to the city. Together, we can forge a path that will make Philadelphia work for everyone. That’s something I want to be a part of.