A longtime member of the Liberty City Democratic Club and the former deputy secretary of external affairs under Mayor Street is now the head of the LGBT political organization.
The Liberty City board voted Feb. 17 to elect Micah Mahjoubian as its co-chair after Gregory Walker, who was recently elected alongside Adah Bush, stepped down for personal reasons.
Mahjoubian has been a member of Liberty City since 2000 and served on the group’s board off and on throughout the decade, and most recently was elected in January 2008.
Mahjoubian said that when the opportunity recently arose to take on the leadership role, he jumped at it.
“I have a strong passion for Liberty City; I think there are a lot of great LGBT organizations out there doing important bipartisan work, but I am a strong advocate of the Democratic Party and I believe we need to have LGBT points of view represented within our party,” he said. “Liberty City really is the only organization in Philadelphia that has that mission, and I wanted to certainly be as much a part of this organization as I could.”
Mahjoubian said he and Bush plan to fuse their backgrounds to benefit Liberty City.
“It’s going to be a great partnership. The way we look at it, she brings a fresh energy, being newer to the board, and she’s already shown the ability to bring new ideas and passion to the work that is very exciting,” he said. “And I have the more longtime experience, being a political consultant and knowing the political players, so I think the two of us will make a great team.”
Mahjoubian was a member of Street’s administration for eight years and made headlines in 2007 when he and partner Ryan Bunch were joined in a commitment ceremony in City Hall, over which Street presided.
Mahjoubian now works as a political consultant, and said the political ties he’s established have already benefited the LGBT community.
He previously worked on John Dougherty’s campaign for state Senate and facilitated a meeting between Dougherty and Carrie Jacobs, executive director of The Attic Youth Center. After meeting the youth at the center, Mahjoubian said Dougherty, a local labor leader, was motivated to rewire the entire building to ensure it would be up to electrical codes, an in-kind donation that Mahjoubian said would have cost The Attic $70,000.
“Those are the kinds of unusual connections that I want to make and that I want to bring to Liberty City,” Mahjoubian said. “My strength in the community is the close relationships I’ve developed with many people who you might not always think of as part of our political base. And I want to build coalitions with other Democratic power centers. I don’t think we’re most effective if we just preach to the choir, if we just organize amongst ourselves. We need to begin dialogues with building trade unions or black clergy or the Democratic Party itself. We certainly want to remain a strong independent organization, but I think we need to also build our relationships.”
Currently, Mahjoubian is working on the campaign to re-elect U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, as well as on Sharif Street’s bid for state representative, but said his own political leanings will not influence his work at Liberty City.
“I certainly want to make it clear that I am a political consultant, and while I’m paid by both campaigns, I informally advise a lot of others. I want to be completely transparent about that and about who I’m personally working with,” he said. “We are an organization of political people, and many of us have been involved with different campaigns, which I think is part of the strength of our organization. But when it comes time for running endorsement meetings and other things like that, I’ll certainly take a step back and defer to my co-chair to lead those efforts.”
In addition to broadening its community connections, Mahjoubian said Liberty City also has a lot of internal “building” he’d like to see happen, particularly with the creation of new committees comprised of Liberty City members.
He said the organization’s issues committee has already been very successful in mobilizing around HB 300, the statewide nondiscrimination bill, and in supporting the effort to remove the gender stickers from SEPTA passes.
Mahjoubian said he’s also interested in the issues committee hosting a platform convention, during which members can create an official platform of issues and policy items that Liberty City wants to advocate for, which he said will not only help the group to organize itself but could also help motivate a new batch of activists.
The LGBT and ally community is invited to join Liberty City for two upcoming candidate nights, March 18 and 22, at the William Way LGBT Community Center, 1315 Spruce St. to hear from candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, U.S. Senate and the Pennsylvania legislature. Both events will start at 6 p.m.