On the surface, the endorsement for governor looks easy. The four Democratic candidates — Joe Hoeffel, Dan Onorato, Jack Wagner and Anthony Williams — all support civil partnerships (at a minimum) and nondiscrimination, which are the two pieces of legislation that actually have a possibility of passing the state legislature. Each of the candidates promises a seat at the political table with appointments and opportunities for the LGBT community. The only difference is Hoeffel, who supports marriage equality. While it’s an issue close to our hearts, it’s still light years away from passing our backwater legislature.
Of the candidates, Wagner has one of the most impressive, but not the best, records on LGBT issues. But in this year’s campaign, he decided to run from that record and didn’t even promote it to the LGBT community. That is a poorly run campaign. And it’s an example of the difficulties in endorsing a candidate for governor this year.
Wagner and Hoeffel have something else in common: lack of funds. In Political Science 101, you learn the first rule of politics: Money is the mother’s milk of a political campaign. Both campaigns have now faltered. While Hoeffel is by far the community’s favorite and a clear progressive, he has not been able to gain support beyond his base.
The remaining two candidates are Onorato of Pittsburgh and Williams of Philadelphia. Both have ample funds to carry them to the finish line. Of all the candidates, Onorato has the skimpiest LGBT credentials. To his credit, he brokered a deal to give domestic-partner rights to Allegheny County workers, something Hoeffel has not been able to do in Montgomery County. Williams, as a member of the state senate, has sponsored numerous pieces of LGBT legislation, is the only candidate that has brought funds to our community and was one of the senators who helped kill the Republicans’ antigay marriage constitutional amendment last year. That’s impressive, and has been largely overlooked by the LGBT community.
One last item. Many say Williams cannot be victorious in November because an African American can’t win the governor’s seat Pennsylvania. Isn’t it time, then? Anthony Williams for governor.
Joe Sestak has been a great ally to the LGBT community in his short career in Congress. He has cosponsored every piece of positive LGBT legislation during his three years there. He recently introduced the Housing Nondiscrimination Act, which would protect LGBT individuals from discrimination in housing. He has also been a vocal advocate of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the military ban on openly gay servicemembers, and last fall called for an investigation into the abuse and hazing of Lt. Joseph Rocha, who was brutalized while in the Navy and eventually discharged.
Now compare that with Arlen Specter.
He was the first elected official in Pennsylvania to meet with members of the LGBT community back in 1973, clearing the road for people like Ed Rendell, his assistant, to embrace this community years later. He was the first prosecutor in the state, and among the first in the nation, to go after police and others who entrapped and blackmailed gay men. He testified for the adoption of nondiscrimination legislation in Philadelphia City Council in the 1980s. Specter introduced a measure, fought an uphill battle in the District Attorney Association of Pennsylvania to support non-discrimination legislation and he got that endorsement. In the U.S. Senate, he and Sen. Ted Kennedy introduced the first hate-crimes legislation. It was known as the Kennedy-Specter Hate Crimes Bill, later was renamed for Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr., and was signed into law last year by President Obama. He’s been a sponsor of the repeal of the military ban on openly gay servicemembers, the Defense of Marriage Act and a sponsor of the nondiscrimination bill since it’s inception. And he did it when it wasn’t popular and as a Republican. That record stands tall.
When you have a long record, you can be attacked. The attack on Specter is that he voted with the Republicans against the community a number of times. What’s not said is those votes were on legislation that was going to lose in large numbers, meaning his vote wouldn’t change a thing: Those votes allowed him to give us the vote when it was needed. And he did, each time he stood with the LGBT community. And he has done so for over 30 years. Specter for Senate.
Pa. House of Representatives
Of all the other races out there, two merit special mention: the legislative seats in the 175th and 182nd districts. The incumbent legislators are two of our strongest allies in Harrisburg. They co-sponsor our legislation, they help defeat antigay legislation and they both have traveled the state to promote gay rights. Their opponents, while having the right positions, have no record on our issues and few connections to our Gayborhood. Mike O’Brien and Babette Josephs deserve your support.