NEW JERSEY Governor: Jon Corzine (D)
PHILADELPHIA District Attorney: Seth Williams (D) City Controller: Alan Butkovitz (D) Philadelphia Common Pleas: Adam Beloff, Diane Thompson, Dan Anders, Angeles Roca, Robert Coleman, Donna Woelper and Roxanne Covington Philadelphia Municipal Court: Dawn Segal, Pat Dugan, Joe Waters and Charles Hayden
PENNSYLVANIA Supreme Court: Jack Panella Superior Court: Ann Lazarus, Robert Colville and Kevin McCarthy Commonwealth Court: Barbara Erensberger and Linda Judson Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas: Cheryl Austin, Joel Bernbaum, Richard Haaz, Jeff Lindy, Lois Murphy, Michael Shields, Ann Thornburg Weiss After last year’s never-ending presidential campaign, this November’s election nearly sneaked by us. (Except for those ever-present TV commercials in which the New Jersey gubernatorial candidates slam each other.) As an off year, there is much less publicity around the candidates — but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t vote. There are several races the local LGBT community should care about. PGN reached out to candidates running for governor of New Jersey, Philadelphia district attorney and Pennsylvania Supreme Court. We asked the same questions of all; the N.J. candidates for governor did not respond to us by deadline, nor did the Republican candidate for Supreme Court.
NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR
Corzine is seeking reelection as the Garden State’s leader, and the Democratic nominee has become a strong supporter of LGBT rights in his four years in office.
Corzine has said that successfully steering New Jersey through the downward economy will be “priority one, two and three” if he’s reelected, but he’s also committed to passing a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. Corzine has spoken out numerous times in favor of such legislation and has pledged to sign a bill if it reaches his desk. He signed the bill that legalized civil unions for same-sex couples in 2006.
Corzine attended Garden State Equality’s annual gala earlier this year and spoke in favor of same-sex marriage. He received the endorsement of President Obama and former President Bill Clinton.
Christie, a former U.S. attorney, is the Republican nominee in New Jersey’s gubernatorial race.
Christie has pledged to lower taxes, reduce spending, concentrate on expanding educational and urban programs and create new jobs to attract residents to the Garden State.
In terms of his views on LGBT issues, Christie is opposed to same-sex marriage, believing such unions “should be exclusively between one man and one woman.” He says he is in favor of same-sex couples having “contractual rights,” but would veto a same-sex-marriage bill if it were to come to his desk as governor. He also endorses a state-ballot initiative “so that voters, not judges, would decide this important social question.”
Former assistant district attorney and chief inspector general, Williams is the Democratic nominee for district attorney.
If elected, Williams said he would support employing a liaison to the LGBT community and also advocates victim-witness liaisons, diversity training and other initiatives to better meet the needs of LGBT, immigrant and other underserved victims.
Williams said he may support reopening the case and releasing the records in the homicide investigation of transgender woman Nizah Morris “in any circumstance where there is sufficient evidence,” although he would not “make it part of my job as district attorney to reopen or release files on a regular basis.” He said, when possible, he would be in favor of sharing information with the families of the victims.
Williams said he would be open to meeting with LGBT advocacy groups to ensure the flow of communication from his office to the community, and to work toward better relations with police.
Untermeyer, the Republican nominee for district attorney, said that if elected, he plans to take steps to heighten the connections between the LGBT community and the DA’s office.
Untermeyer said he favors an LGBT community member serving as a liaison to the DA’s office, someone who would participate in monthly meetings with him and other community liaisons. He also advocates for one attorney within his office serving as a representative for the LGBT community. In addition, he said, he also would employ a full-time LGBT victim-witness coordinator, “whose position would be safe from budget reductions by funding this position from nontraditional sources of funding.”
Untermeyer pledged to have annual diversity training for all supervisory personnel within the DA’s office to ensure enforcement of the Fair Practices Act.
He said he would “agree to release all police records and 911 tapes to the public pertaining to the Nizah Morris homicide case, subject to prior family approval.”
Panella is a judge of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania who’s running for the state Supreme Court.
He said he looks to a wide circle of advisors regarding LGBT issues and does employ LGBT staffers, but said his main motivator when it comes to any issue he must decide upon, LGBT or other, is “a pair of simple beliefs that our Constitution provides that everyone is due equal rights and opportunities and that what is fair for one is fair for all.”
Panella pledged to work to ensure fair hiring practices within his office for candidates from all backgrounds.
“I have hired members of the LGBT community in the past and believe diversity has not only made my office a better place to work, it has made me a better judge,” he said.
Panella said that same commitment to respect for all people permeates his courtroom.
“It is my firm belief that when an individual steps into a court of law, that they should be entering a protected place where they will be judged not on the color of their skin, their gender, or their sexual orientation, but on the merits of their case,” he said.
Panella has recently been working on a healthcare seminar for LGBT individuals in the Philadelphia area, which he previously spearheaded in northeastern Pennsylvania.