On Wednesday, April 17, the Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club held its election year endorsement meeting at the William Way Community Center. At that meeting, the LCDC voted on who to endorse in a variety of local races, including city council, city commissioner and various judgeships.
The LCDC has spent the last several months researching the numerous candidates —a process that that included pouring over questionnaires candidates filled out delineating their positions on many of the issues important to the LGBTQ community. The last couple of weeks, the Club also hosted candidates’ nights, where the political hopefuls were invited to come and make their cases to the LCDC membership directly.
This year, a record number of openly LGBTQ candidates are running for office, which made for some choices. While the Club perforce prioritizes openly LGBT candidates, being out does not grant a candidate a coveted LCDC endorsement automatically. The slate of issues LCDC inquires about is extensive, and one’s sexual orientation is only one factor considered. Also, prominent local politicians favored by the local Democratic Party organization are frequently passed over when the Club’s membership finds the candidate’s support of the LGBTQ community wanting.
LCDC’s debate and voting process is private, open only to Club members, and not open to the press.
One contest closely watched by the LGBTQ community was the battle between incumbent Councilman Kenyatta Johnson and challenger Lauren Vidas. LCDC endorsed Johnson over Vidas, in part, it was said, over concerns with the latter’s background as a paid lobbyist — a controversial decision that lead to a robust conversation among some of the Club's members.
When asked about the controversial decision, Liberty City Co-Chair Alexander Olsen said, “Our endorsement committee puts many, many volunteer hours into choosing who they believe the best candidates are for office in the Philadelphia region, and have decades of experience with this responsibility. After reviewing the record, they chose to recommend that the general body endorse Vidas given her strong credentials and record of service to the community. But our endorsement committee does not have the final say. Given that we are a democratic organization, we make sure all endorsements are reviewed and voted upon by the membership. The membership voted three-to-one to endorse Kenyatta Johnson for the seat.”
In the crowded City Council-at-large race, endorsements went to Deja Lynn Alvarez who got the nod over out candidate Adrian Rivera Reyes. “Adrian and Deja both have powerful life stories that would empower them to have successful careers in City Council,” said Olsen, explaining the rationale behind the decision. “That being said, Deja’s years of impassioned and effective service to the community are what pushed the endorsement committee in her direction,” she said.
“We loved Adrian, and it was thrilling to have such a difficult decision before us, and are disappointed we did not have the ability to recommend more people. Although the organization did not endorse him, I will personally be voting for him.”
Finally, for common please judge both out candidates, Henry Sias and Tiffany Palmer, were given endorsements — a decision that came without much controversy.
Here is the full list of Liberty City endorsements:
MAYOR: Jim Kenney
CITY COMMISSIONER: Lisa Deeley and Kahlil Williams
SHERIFF: Rochelle Bilal
COUNCIL AT LARGE: Deja Lynn Alvarez, Helen Gym, Erika Almirón, Derek Green, and Justin DiBerardinis
DISTRICT COUNCIL: Mark Squilla (1st District), Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District), and Maria D. Quiñones-Sánchez (7th District)
SUPERIOR COURT JUSTICE: Dan McCaffery
COMMON PLEAS JUDGE: Nicola Serianni, Wendi Barish, Anthony Kyriakakis, Henry Sias, and Tiffany Palmer
MUNICIPAL COURT JUDGE: David Conroy