Lou Lanni on Running for State Rep as an LGBTQ Candidate
This 182nd District House seat looks highly competitive. What are you bringing to the table that’s distinctly different from others running?
Experience. Experience in life. Experience in business as a long time realtor who negotiates for a living. Experience as a policeman who dealt with many serious, and at times deadly, situations. And experience as a lifelong Philadelphian who knows our city and its people inside out — the only one in the field of four candidates, I notice. In the course of my life, I’ve learned how to deal with a wide variety of people in many different, and sometimes demanding, situations. Understanding personalities, seeing things from the other person’s perspective, and knowing when to compromise is the key to being a successful legislator. Knowing how to combine with others to get the job done, being willing to negotiate, and being open to compromise is the way government should work. A “my way or the highway” attitude will never work in Harrisburg. In spite of all the glowing accolades my competitors have assigned themselves, I know that I am the one person in the field ready to lead from day one.
You are currently running for this seat as a registered Democrat. In past local elections, you considered running against Councilman Mark Squilla as a Republican. What made you consider switching parties so soon?
As the records reflect, I was a Republican for a brief period of time, but was a long-time Democrat before that. And frankly, I’m pretty disgusted with the state of both political parties, locally and nationally. Both parties have become polarized in a way that does most of us a great disservice. With too many politicians, it’s more about winning than it is about doing what’s in the better interests of the citizens. The spectacle that has been playing out in Harrisburg for nine long months over the state budget puts that notion on full display. So it is disingenuous to paint me as anything other than what I am — a lifelong Philadelphian who loves his city. When I gave thought to running for City Council, I was looking to bring about change from the machine politics that have hobbled our city to what we have become today. But, the reality is that a Republican candidate is dead on arrival at the polls, Thus, I have returned whence I came.
You recently filed a petition against the signatures of an opponent, Marni Snyder. What made you consider doing so, and what effect do you assume it will have on the race?
Petition challenges are a part of the political process. The Pennsylvania election code is specific about what the definition of a “qualified elector” is and how many signatures of such persons a candidate needs to get in order to be placed on the ballot. It is, in short, the law. The challenges made were as a result of careful examination of the voter registration rolls and petition signatures over three days, and learning that far too many of the signers did not qualify to sign a petition for a Democratic candidate in the 182nd, and should not as a matter of law be allowed. Ms. Snyder went so far as to boast about allowing a child she believed to be underage and unregistered to sign her petition on her Facebook account, and then signed a sworn statement at the bottom of the page that she believed all of her signers did qualify. A particularly egregious act for a licensed attorney and officer of the court. How can someone with such a flagrant disregard for the oath she took when she submitted her pages be trusted?
(Asked to respond to Lanni’s accusations, Snyder replied: “Philadelphia politics are definitely exciting enough without trying to mimic what we’re seeing on the presidential level. My campaign’s focused on the important issues, and driving that discussion is our number one-priority. Without that, and without proper representation in Harrisburg, we won’t see the changes that the 182nd deserves.”)
As to what effect, we will see how the math works out on election day.
You’re the second openly gay candidate running in this race; incumbent Brian Sims is the other. What do you think you can do better in regards to LGBTQ issues statewide?
Great question! I understand that you can’t go out to a state assembly that is controlled by the opposing party and expect them to consider your points of view and legislative efforts if you engage in a sustained campaign of namecalling, arguments, shouting, banging of fists on lecterns, and derisive behavior toward your peers. And, you have to show up for the votes. His hallmark effort to protect the LGBTQ community is the “hate crimes” statute, and its failure to go to a vote is emblematic of that. There is widespread support for this measure in both houses, and it’s only one or two people out there that prevented it from reaching the floor for a vote. Moreover, just last year when two gay men were beaten in Center City, every news organization in the country was in Philadelphia to cover it. It was the perfect time to push this measure out, and there wasn’t so much as a peep out of anyone, including the incumbent, to do so. A more collegial approach when it was introduced, and an awareness of the opportunity the beating presented, would have served us all much better and resulted in the passage of the bill. He has been silent on this effort ever since. It can pass if it’s brought to a vote.
Also, I’d like to add a word about another candidate you reported on last week. I just don’t see how a 30-year-old that hasn’t worked on a single LGBTQ issue that I can name can claim a 15-year history of advocacy for LGBTQ people. Someone is going to have to explain that to me very carefully.
You have a long, storied history in the Philadelphia Police Department. You’ve noted in several previous engagements how difficult it was to come out during those years. What plans do you have to break this cycle?
Social change comes over time, and, you can’t legislate the way some people in the PPD view the LGBTQ community, any more than you can legislate it in other fields of endeavor, unless it is known to the employer and allowed to continue. In this circumstance, Title IX type laws specific to Pennsylvania should be considered to protect LGBTQ employees from hostile work environments … Otherwise, the organization itself has to set the tone and make it clear that hostile behavior toward anyone, including LGBTQ persons will not be tolerated, and upon being reported and sustained, punished. The PPD doesn’t do a great job on this, though in more recent years there does seem to be less of this type of behavior in the ranks. It comes down to leadership and strong supervision, to include the mayor, to whom the police commissioner reports. I can remember several situations where there were tensions between a few of my subordinates. I made it very clear that “you don’t have to marry them, but you do have to work with them,” and that asses would sting if I heard any more such complaints.