Gay man runs for state House seat held by Sims

Gay man runs for state House seat held by Sims

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Louis D. Lanni Jr., an openly gay man and former police officer, has announced his candidacy for state representative in the 182nd District, which covers parts of Center City and South Philadelphia.

"I'm at a point in my life that when I take a look at what's going on, I don't like what I see," Lanni told PGN. "We are very poorly led in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania. And we can do a whole lot better."

Lanni said he'll run as a Democrat in the upcoming primary, scheduled for April 26.

The seat is currently held by another openly gay man, Brian K. Sims, Pennsylvania’s first out elected state lawmaker. Sims is running for another term, and is also running for a Congressional seat currently held by indicted Congressman Chaka Fattah.

"If elected, I'm going to be a full-time rep," Lanni said. "I'm not going to be a part-time rep, while working at another job. My state-rep duties will occupy 100 percent of my time."

His supporters will begin circulating nomination petitions this week.

"We have a really good team," Lanni said. "I feel really good about it."

Assisting Lanni in his election bid is Michael T. Connor, his longtime partner. They've lived together in Center City for 25 years.

Lanni's campaign platform includes passage of a statewide LGBT civil-rights bill, passage of a hate-crimes law that's LGBT-inclusive and increased public safety.

As a licensed Realtor, he's developed negotiating skills that will help accomplish those goals, he said.

"You have to negotiate in a collegial way with these folks in Harrisburg," he said. "That's the way to get these thing done. You cannot go out there and throw bombs with these people. They'll shut you off and won't listen."

Last month, Lanni received a pardon from Gov. Tom Wolf for a 1997 insurance-fraud conviction. Lanni said the conviction was erroneous, and he fought hard for a pardon.

"That's the same level of dedication I'm going to bring to the difficult issues that confront our city and state," he said.

Jeffrey Sheridan, a Wolf spokesperson, issued this statement about the pardon for Lanni: "Under the Pennsylvania Constitution (Article IV, Section 9), the governor may only issue a pardon on the written recommendation of a majority of the Board of Pardons. Mr. Lanni was recommended for pardon by the board, and the governor, in this case, accepted that recommendation and granted him a pardon. The timing of Mr. Lanni’s pardon was only subject to the timeline-review process of the board, which is based only upon the date of a person’s application."

Lanni also said he'll push to reopen the case of Nizah Morris, a transgender woman found with a fatal head wound in 2002, shortly after a "courtesy ride" from Philadelphia police. Her homicide remains unsolved.

"If I take office, believe me, there's going to be a whole lot more sunshine on that matter than being shined on it now. They covered that thing up from the get-go. If everyone is so clean, why don't you let the facts be shown? Let it speak for itself. If people stonewall you to such an extent, it's because they're hiding something."

In November, Lanni was mugged, which reinforced his belief in the need for increased public safety.

"I was keenly aware of public-safety issues before someone tried to rob me," he said. "This by being a police officer, and having arrested many such people for preying on honest people going about their business. That incident on Nov. 11 just serves to drive the point home."

Lanni also said he's keeping an open mind about state Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane, who faces criminal charges for allegedly leaking grand-jury information.

"That woman deserves to be heard," he said. "She deserves her day in court and she should be judged on the merits of her case. Based on the debacle with Justice Eakin and others, it's very clear she's ruffled an awful lot of feathers of people who would like to see her gone."

Lanni said he's excited about his upcoming campaign.

"We're going to run hard. I'm going to be out meeting the people. I'm going to be out banging on doors, standing on corners and taking my message right to the people." 

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