Primary races see gay wins, slim losses
by Jen Colletta
May 19, 2011 | 2572 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Primary Day brought both victories and losses to LGBT candidates in the area.

Sherrie Cohen and Malcolm Lazin, both seeking to become the first openly LGBT members of Philadelphia City Council, placed sixth in the Democratic and Republican Council-at-Large contests, respectively, narrowly missing the coveted top-five spots.

Cohen captured 9.3 percent of the vote, bringing in 43,690 votes, putting her less than 2,000 votes behind fifth-place incumbent Jim Kenney.

“I think this reflected the power of unity among LGBT people, laborers, progressives — all the people who want a city with more economic and social justice,” Cohen said Wednesday. “The fact that we came so close to winning shows that even without the backing of the Democratic Party, we can unite so many segments of our citywide community and achieve victory in the near future.”

Cohen, who said she would consider another run for Council in the future, added the close call should encourage LGBT voters to enhance their support for out candidates in future races.

“I think next time people should just realize they need to do one extra thing, one extra step to help a candidate win,” she said. “We need everyone to jump into these campaigns and feel like it’s their campaign. I ran on behalf and for our community, and I think we need people to realize that’s in their best interests to do everything they can to have a seat at the table and representation. We can build political power as a movement by getting openly LGBT people elected.”

On the Republican ticket, Lazin was just 200 votes behind Michael Untermeyer, with Lazin garnering 11.6 percent, or 6,773 votes.

“It was a close vote, but I’m certainly very grateful for the support I received,” Lazin said, adding he doubted he would run again in the future. “This was a unique opportunity to serve Philadelphia at a really critical juncture.”

Despite the Council losses, openly lesbian attorney Barbara McDermott was victorious, placing sixth out of 10 possible openings for Democratic Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, garnering 4.7 percent of the vote, or almost 36,000 votes.

McDermott said the win was especially meaningful, as she ran 10 years ago and lost, which she said signifies the growing acceptance of out candidates among voters.

“People were willing to look at my entire picture and get a sense of who I was, what I stand for and the work I’ve done. Things have changed a lot in the past 10 years and this was just an opportunity for me to say this is it, this is who I am, and I didn’t get one negative comment about my sexuality, which surprised me,” she said. “I didn’t plaster it everywhere, but people certainly knew I was out, and knew who the gay candidates were. When there are numerous out candidates, it’s a lot harder to just dismiss them.”

Also successful was out attorney Dan Clifford, who won the Republican nomination for Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, capturing 41.4 percent of the vote, defeating two other candidates, the nearest by just 300 votes.

Judicial races were unsuccessful for openly gay attorneys and Democratic Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas candidates Christopher Mallios and Leon King.

Mallios placed 15th out of the 34 candidates, with 3 percent, or 22,584 votes, while King came in 29th, with 1.3 percent, or 9,457 votes.

Also unsuccessful was out attorney Robert Tuerk, who lost his bid for Philadelphia Traffic Court.

Mayor Michael Nutter soundly defeated challenger T. Milton Street for the Democratic mayoral nomination, while the Republican race was extremely tight, with Karen Brown leading John Featherman by just 60 votes as of presstime, with 96.4 percent of precincts counted.

In the Democratic City Council-at-Large race, five incumbents were victorious with, in order, Blondell Reynolds Brown, Bill Green, Bill Greenlee, Wilson Goode Jr. and Kenney, earning the top-five spots.

On the Republican side, David Oh led the pack, followed by Denny O’Brien, Joe McColgan, Al Taubenberger and Michael Untermeyer. Notably, incumbent at-Large Councilman Frank Rizzo was shut out of the race.

The 10 at-Large candidates will vie for the seven open seats in November, with no more than five allowed to go to one political party, which, because of the strong Democratic majority in the city, typically leaves two seats for Republicans.

Rizzo was the target of sharp criticism for his participation in the Deferred Retirement Option Plan, similar to longtime City Commissioner Marge Tartaglione, who lost her bid to Stephanie Singer.

In the Council district races, Mark Squilla was victorious in the race to represent the First District, which includes the Gayborhood, topping candidates Joe Grace, Jeff Hornstein and Vern Anastasio.

Incumbent Democrats Darrell Clarke (5th Dist.), Maria Quinones-Sanchez (7th Dist.) and Marian Tasco (10th Dist.) retained their seats, while the three races without an incumbent were 6th Dist. candidate Bobby Henon and 8th Dist. candidate Cindy Bass.

In the 2nd Dist., state Rep. Kenyatta Johnson had 7,435 votes to Barbara Capozzi’s 7,363 at press time.

Jen Colletta can be reached at

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