Q&A: Brian Sims on the Race for the 182nd District

The two-term incumbent speaks candidly about this year’s competitive primary and whether his looks detract from his work.

State Rep. Brian Sims of the 182nd District

State Rep. Brian Sims

The race for the 182nd hasn’t been this competitive in years, with four candidates still in the running a month before the primary. What do you think has made so many candidates want to challenge you this time around?
This district has a long history of robust elections. So many great folks ranging from Sen. Larry Farnese to Terry Gillen have made a run for this seat, and I think that’s one of the qualities that makes this district so unique. The number of people who want to be involved with their government is inspiring. The other people in this race are good people who are genuinely trying to make a difference in their communities, and I applaud them for that. I have enjoyed the opportunity to have a substantive conversation with them about how best to move forward, and I am excited about the remaining weeks of this campaign.

You’re often cited in the media and by your opponents as a “trailblazer” for being Pennsylvania’s first openly gay state representative, although some call you a “one-trick pony” for your focus on LGBTQ issues. How has your tenure as a state rep countered this notion?
While LGBTQ issues are extremely important to me, one only needs to look at what I’ve been doing in Harrisburg to see my involvement in a variety of issues. I am currently working with members of both parties to move forward with a constitutional amendment that would provide for the merit selection of judges, putting an end to the outdated partisan process of judicial elections. I am also working with a number of my colleagues on legislation that would end the gerrymandering process and institute nonpartisan redistricting so people can once again pick their legislators, instead of legislators picking their voters. Moreover, I have been a staunch advocate for the protection of women’s health choices as well as a fighter for equal pay for women.

You’re fairly new to politics as an elected official. What made you want to run for the U.S. Congress at this early point in your political career?
When I was elected to the State House in 2012, I saw an opportunity to really expand the services that our office was providing to members of the community. In fact, since taking office we have increased constituent services by over 400 percent. The 2nd Congressional district is one of the poorest and most disadvantaged districts in the state, despite being in the wealthiest city in the state. When I saw that, I thought that if we could bring the level of service to that district that we brought to the 182nd, we could do real good on a large scale.

You did extensive fundraising for your congressional campaign. Where did those funds go after you suspended that campaign?
Running for any office is a process that requires fundraising, and running in a multi-candidate field is a complicated process. For those who are interested, every penny raised and spent is available for viewing online.

Would it be far-fetched for voters to assume that running for Congress was a way to garner support and funding for this now-competitive state House seat?
If anything, exploring the Congressional run has played a factor in attracting challengers to this race. I think if you take a hard look at the politics of this race you would see that one of the major reasons there are challengers is because I explored a Congressional run. I am very proud of my strong record on a range of issues such as women’s health, equality, and education and I think that my challengers were reluctant to run against that record. If you look back a few months you’ll notice that no one had declared intentions to run for this race until I showed interest in the Congressional seat. However, I am happy they are seeing it through as it gives us a real opportunity to have a conversation with voters about what they want to see in the coming years.

Your official social media pages are full of comments on your looks. Do you find that this kind of attention detracts from your work as an elected official?
I don’t think my standing as a nationally recognized advocate on issues of equality has anything to do with my looks. I have spent the last decade of my career fighting to give voice to those who have been long marginalized by our society, and my status as the first openly LGBT person elected to the Pennsylvania Legislature gave me a platform to spread a message of equality beyond the district or the State. I am grateful to be able to talk to people both young and old about issues that are so personally important to them. It is necessary for us as a society to have these conversations so we can move into a more fair and just future together.

If you are re-elected, what do you hope to improve on? What will your legislative priorities be?
I’m proud of what we have accomplished so far, but I am also the first one to admit we have a lot more work to do. I intend to continue to fight for equality for all people. It is a disgrace that women only earn 83 cents for every dollar a man earns, and it is unconscionable that one can be fired or evicted for being LGBTQ. I will continue to advocate for a public school system that is fully funded through a fair formula that takes into account data and demographics instead of political whim. I’ll also continue to work with my team to ensure that every constituent has access to high quality and timely services that affect the daily lives of so many.