Primary interviews
by PGN Staff
May 13, 2010 | 1962 views | 1 1 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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For Tuesday’s primary, PGN reached out to the Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate, governor, lieutenant governor and state House. In an effort to be fair and flexible, we e-mailed a set of questions to the candidates and accepted responses via phone or e-mail. For the Senate and lieutenant-governor race, both pairs of candidates responded. In the governor’s race, only two of the four candidates responded to our interview request — Joe Hoeffel and Anthony Williams. We did not receive a response from Dan Onorato (or his campaign) and Jack Wagner’s staff canceled a scheduled interview. In the House races, we reached out to candidates in the following districts: 172, 175, 180, 181, 182, 188, 190, 192, 194, 195, 198 and 201. Below are summaries of the responses we received.

U.S. SENATE Joe Sestak

Congressman Sestak is running on a campaign of bringing a new generation of leadership to the U.S. Senate.

After 31 years in the Navy, Sestak defeated a Republican incumbent to become the 7th District Congressmember in 2006.

As a Congressman, Sestak has been a strong proponent of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He is a cosponsor of the measure to repeal the military ban, has written to the President and other leaders about the law and advocated for an investigation on behalf of Lt. Joseph Rocha, a gay servicemember who was discharged under the policy and endured antigay brutality while in the service.

Sestak supports the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act and is an advocate of same-sex marriage, as long as freedom of religion is respected in any marriage-equality law.

Sestak is a cosponsor of the Domestic Partner Benefits and Obligations Act and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and also cosponsored the recently approved federal LGBT-inclusive hate-crimes bill.

Earlier this year, Sestak introduced the Housing Non-Discrimination Act — which seeks to ban LGBT discrimination in the housing sector — which he said would be a significant step in alleviating discrimination particularly against LGBT seniors, who often face housing discrimination.

Sestak is a cosponsor of the Safe Schools Improvement Act, which mandates schools adopt LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying polices, and said he’s been working to define “bullying” in the No Child Left Behind law, which he said should specifically reference LGBT students.

“I honestly believe in absolute equality across the board as a core conviction,” Sestak said. “I just truly believe in equality. And I believe we need more accountability; for a person who gave four out of five votes with George W. Bush, I don’t think that should be rewarded by the Democratic Party. I think we need a warrior who’s committed to moving us forward.”

Arlen Specter

Incumbent U.S. Sen. Specter returned to the Democratic Party last year and is now looking to win the party’s nomination to defeat Republican challenger Pat Toomey in the fall.

Throughout his 30-year Senate career, Specter said he has “long believed that a work environment is enhanced by the diversity of people working together” and employs a hiring policy that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Specter supports civil unions for same-sex couples and believes individual states should decide the issue of same-sex marriage.

Specter announced last year that he was reversing his position on the federal Defense of Marriage Act and now supports its repeal.

He is a cosponsor of the Domestic Partner Benefits and Obligations Act, the bill to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and has cosponsored the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in every session it was introduced since 1999.

“I have consistently supported legislation to combat workplace discrimination,” he said. “Members of the LGBT community should not have to fear losing their job because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Specter was also a strong advocate for the recently passed federal LGBT-inclusive hate-crimes bill and supports the effort to include sexual orientation and gender identity in the state hate-crimes measure.

Specter said he would support federal subsidies for housing, care and counseling for LGBT seniors and would also advocate for programs and services to respond to the unique needs of this population.

Specter said he fully supports equal opportunities for LGBT business owners and, if informed of discrimination against the LGBT community in business development, lending or government grants, he “would vigorously defend community members’ right to full participation and egalitarian treatment.”

He said that, if reelected, he would continue to advocate for the LGBT community, something he said he’s been committed to throughout his career in public office.

“I plan to keep fighting to end discrimination, and I plan to keep working toward the creation of an equitable, just society.”

Specter has been endorsed by Liberty City Democratic Club and Steel City Stonewall Democrats.

GOVERNOR Joe Hoeffel

Montgomery County Commissioner Hoeffel, a former state representative and Pennsylvania Congressman, is looking to continue his public-service career as the state’s next governor.

Hoeffel is the only gubernatorial candidate who supports same-sex marriage, but said he would also advocate for the current civil-union bill in the state legislature if that measure moves forward.

As a Congressmember, he was a cosponsor of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act and is also supportive of Pennsylvania’s LGBT nondiscrimination bill, House Bill 300.

Hoeffel, whose campaign scheduler is openly gay, said that, if elected, he would be inclusive in his hiring and would work to ensure that his administration is “reflective of the real diversity in Pennsylvania.”

Hoeffel said he would strive to improve the classroom climate for LGBT youth by first heightening awareness of the issue.

“Everybody — from guidance counselors to teachers to administration — needs to make anti-bullying a priority and work to protect people who are bullied for their orientation,” he said.

Hoeffel said a similar awareness-raising approach should be taken to lessen discrimination against LGBT seniors, and he would work with senior-housing programs and centers to ensure their policies do not discriminate against this population.

Hoeffel said he would be wiling to consider a measure that would require companies that obtain state contracts to offer domestic-partner benefits to their employees, and said he’d work to ensure that all minority-owned businesses have an equal opportunity to participate in state contracts.

“I want to create opportunities for all Pennsylvanians, the LGBT community included,” he said. “I want to use the power of the government to fight discrimination and create a level playing field that allows the full participation of all citizens.”

Hoeffel has been endorsed by Liberty City Democratic Club.

Anthony Williams

Pennsylvania Sen. Williams has served the state’s 8th District for 12 years, after previously serving as a state representative in the 191st District.

Williams is in favor of civil unions for same-sex couples but is not an advocate of same-sex marriage, and said he feels marriage is a religious issue.

Williams supports the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity into Pennsylvania’s hate-crimes law and is also in favor of the effort to ban discrimination against LGBT individuals in the state.

He said he would support a bill that would require state contractors to offer domestic-partner benefits and would strive for the state contracting process to be fair and inclusive.

“No group should be denied information or access to financial support. I want to make sure that any group, whether it’s people of color, women or any other group that has historically been discriminated against has access,” he said.

“And you have to lead by example. So in the governor’s office, you have many different cabinets and you do need to recruit based upon ability, but you also need to consider diversity.”

Williams said he has personal experience with the damaging effects of discrimination and would be committed to safeguarding all residents from such practices.

“I come from a minority group, so I’ve seen this in my own life,” he said. “I have a history of protecting people who are discriminated against, whether it’s through hatred or denial of access.”

LT. GOVERNOR Jonathan Saidel

Saidel, the Philadelphia City Controller for 16 years, pledged to bring LGBT issues to the forefront if elected as Pennsylvania’s next lieutenant governor.

Saidel is a supporter of marriage equality and civil unions as well as domestic-partner benefits for same-sex couples, something he said he advocated for as controller.

He would support a measure to mandate that state contractors offer domestic-partner benefits and noted that he would encourage diversity in his hiring practices by being “sensitive to the fact that people in government should be completely reflective of the people you serve.”

Saidel is supportive of both the LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination and hate-crimes bills and said that, if passed, he would work to ensure they are strictly enforced.

Saidel has been endorsed by Liberty City Democratic Club.

Doris Smith-Ribner

Smith-Ribner recently retired as a statewide appeals-court judge after serving more than 20 years on the bench.

She served several years as a member of the Pennsylvania Interbranch Commission for Gender, Racial and Ethnic Fairness and has also sat on the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

Smith-Ribner is a proponent of civil unions but not same-sex marriage, and favors LGBT-inclusive hate-crimes and nondiscrimination measures. She noted the nondiscrimination bill would go a long way to create fairer employment opportunities for LGBT individuals, but said she would also include qualified LGBT employees in her administration to set an example for the rest of the state.

“I have a 25-year history of fighting discrimination in Pennsylvania,” she said. “I was appointed to the Human Relations Commission by Milton Shapp and dealt with antidiscrimination issues then and haven’t stopped. It’s been a passion of mine, and I’ve always done all that I could to alleviate discrimination.”

STATE HOUSE 172nd Tim Kearney

Kearney is looking to gain the Democratic nomination in Northeast Philadelphia’s 172nd District so he can work to unseat Republican John Perzel.

Kearney, a former legislative aide, constituent-services representative and researcher for several city councilmembers, is in favor of civil unions and full marriage equality. He said that, if elected, he would support the effort to ban LGBT discrimination in the state and to include the LGBT community in the state hate-crimes law.

To curb harassment of LGBT youth, Kearney said he would promote training of staff, students and parents, introduce a phone hotline for students and encourage out staffers to work with struggling students.

Kearney said LGBT sensitivity training should also be instituted at all public senior programs and that the state should apportion funding for this community.

“I believe in inclusiveness, freedom of expression, privacy, civil rights for all and a society where everyone feels safe and welcome,” he said.

Kearney has been endorsed by Liberty City Democratic Club.


Mike O’Brien

State Rep. O’Brien is seeking reelection to the position he was first elected to in 2006.

O’Brien is currently a cosponsor of the LGBT-inclusive hate-crimes and nondiscrimination bills, as well as the civil-union bill, but said he would also support full marriage equality. He was one of several legislators who was outspoken in attempts to defeat past efforts to ban marriage equality in the state constitution.

O’Brien said he supports the creation of an LGBT senior-housing project and would back a measure that would mandate state contractors to offer domestic-partner benefits.

O’Brien said he has been an advocate for the LGBT community since 1975, when a childhood friend came out to him, and noted that Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission chair Steve Glassman has referred to him as his “‘attack dog’ on LGBT issues.”

“In my time in the legislature, I have been an outspoken friend of the community at every turn in Harrisburg.”

O’Brien has been endorsed by Liberty City Democratic Club.

Daryl La Fountain

La Fountain, who is openly gay, is eager to give the LGBT community a voice in the Pennsylvania legislature.

La Fountain supports civil unions, full marriage equality and domestic-partner benefits for same-sex couples, the latter of which he said he himself currently has. If elected, he said he would advocate for the LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination and hate-crimes bills.

He said LGBT training is needed for social workers who provide outreach to senior citizens and, to lessen discrimination against LGBT students, similar awareness-raising practices must be put in place in school districts, along with restored funding for the State School Advocate.

“When we have a seat at the table in the Pennsylvania Legislature, I fully intend to start the conversation about equality for all Pennsylvanians,” he said, adding he will work to protect the entire diverse population of the state. “I see the LGBT community as taking a leadership role in the future, and we need to be at the forefront as Philadelphians.”

181st W. Curtis Thomas

State Rep. Thomas has represented the 181st District for more than 20 years and said that throughout his tenure, he has been “open, honest and inclusive with all of the diverse populations” he represents.

Thomas, a cosponsor of the LGBT-inclusive hate-crimes and nondiscrimination bills, also said he would support civil unions for same-sex couples, but is undecided on full marriage equality.

Thomas said increased attention and education needs to be given to bullying of all types of students, with stricter punishments enforced. In terms of LGBT seniors, Thomas said he already works closely with seniors of all backgrounds in his district to connect them with resources and educate them about their rights.

He said he strives to keep “the lines of communication and cooperation open among the diverse populations” of his district to raise awareness about employment opportunities, and would not exclude LGBT community members from projects with which he’s involved.

“I have advocated for and supported legislation that assists the LGBT community and will continue to do so in my new position as majority chair of the House Urban Affairs Committee. I believe in equality for all people.”

182nd Babette Josephs

State Rep. Josephs has held her post in the 182nd District, which covers much of Center City including the Gayborhood, since 1984. Throughout her tenure, Josephs has cosponsored numerous LGBT-rights measures, such as the bill to include the LGBT community in the state hate-crimes law, the civil-union bill and the LGBT nondiscrimination bill, House Bill 300.

Last session, Josephs held the first-ever House hearing on a pro-LGBT measure, the nondiscrimination bill, and has been a strong opponent of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

“I have worked with and defended the LGBT community for 45 years — initially in the 1960s as a [National Organization for Women] member — when it was not an easy thing to do,” she said. “I have the seniority in the legislature and the powerful position to move LGBT issues forward, and I have and will continue to do so.”

Josephs has been endorsed by Liberty City Democratic Club.

Gregg Kravitz

Openly bisexual candidate Kravitz is looking to become the first member of the LGBT community to serve in the Pennsylvania legislature.

If elected, Kravitz said he would be a staunch advocate for the adoption of civil unions, as well as full marriage equality, for the LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination bill and hate-crimes measure.

Kravitz supports efforts to strengthen anti-LGBT bullying by such measures as heightening training of school personnel and also specifically prohibiting anti-LGBT harassment.

Kravtiz said the LGBT community needs representatives in Harrisburg who “are more than allies but are people with a personal investment in the legislative initiatives that affect LGBT rights.”

Kravitz noted that his election could also influence conservative legislators and their views on the LGBT community.

“Only then can the LGBT community have a real seat at the table and begin the important but challenging process of opening minds that are closed.”


James Roebuck

State Rep. Roebuck has represented Pennsylvania’s 188th District, encompassing West Philadelphia, since 1985.

He is a cosponsor of the civil-union bill and would also support full marriage equality. Roebuck is also cosponsoring the LGBT-inclusive hate-crimes and nondiscrimination bills currently in the House.

Roebuck said “clearer standards and consequences” are needed in school districts to ensure that both students and staff understand LGBT harassment will not be tolerated. He also said similar antidiscrimination policies should be designed to protect LGBT seniors.

Roebuck would support a bill to require state contractors to offer domestic-partner benefits and said he would press for LGBT merchants to be included in minority-business initiatives.

If re-elected, Roebuck said he would continue advocating for the LGBT community.

“I’m fair, I’m honest in my approach to issues and I certainly have always been focused on being responsive to the LGBT community. My voting record is very solid in terms of LGBT issues,” he said.

190th Vanessa Lowery Brown

Since assuming office in 2009, state Rep. Brown has cosponsored such measures as the LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination and hate-crimes bills and the civil-union measure.

Brown, who is also a marriage-equality advocate, said she would be in favor of requiring state contractors to offer domestic-partner benefits to same-sex couples, if similar benefits are offered to the spouses of heterosexual employees, and also supports efforts to include the LGBT community into minority-recruitment initiatives and other efforts to level the playing field for minority communities.

“For many years, African Americans, Latinos and other ethnic minorities fought against ‘redlining,’ predatory lending and other personal and business-lending practices in their neighborhoods,” Brown said, noting she would also work with the LGBT community to fight against such practices.

Brown said her legislative record and her employment experiences make her an exemplary advocate for the LGBT community.

“As a legislator, I have consistently voted positively on issues important to the LGBT community, and for many years before that [I] worked as a community organizer in defense of fair housing and employment opportunities,” she said. “If I am re-elected, I will continue fighting for the rights of the LGBT community, and every other citizen in my district who seeks a strong voice in Harrisburg.”

194th Josh Cohen

Cohen, who’s held a series of positions in the local political realm — most recently as a constituent-services representative for City Councilman Curtis Jones — is hoping to bring progressive change to Harrisburg.

A supporter of civil unions and marriage equality, Cohen said he would be a strong advocate for pro-LGBT measures like the nondiscrimination and hate-crimes bills and would work to “support the community to the best of my ability.”

Cohen said he would work to repeal the state’s ban on same-sex marriage and would be committed to fending off legislative attempts to prohibit marriage equality in the state constitution.

He added he would work with the business community to develop an LGBT-recruitment plan and would encourage LGBT business owners to connect with the city’s Office of Economic Opportunity to ensure they have full access to business opportunities.

“I am a progressive, forward-thinking, independent, young candidate with a strong history of public service,” he said. “The LGBT community would not have a bigger friend in Harrisburg than me.”

Cohen has been endorsed by Liberty City Democratic Club.

Pam DeLissio

DeLissio is looking to fill the vacancy left by retiring Rep. Kathy Manderino, who has endorsed DeLissio.

DeLissio is supportive of both civil unions and marriage equality and also favors the LGBT-inclusive hate-crimes and nondiscrimination bills.

She said she would work for LGBT business owners to attain the Minority Owned Business designation.

DeLissio, who currently works in the Internet-technology field, has two decades of experience advocating for low-income seniors as a longterm-care worker. She said her work with seniors showed her that elderly individuals of all backgrounds have similar needs and deserve equal access to services, for which she said she’d advocate if elected.

Keith Newman

Newman, a Philadelphia teacher for the past 15 years, said he’s developed a deep understanding of LGBT-rights issues from his large circle of LGBT friends and volunteers who’ve worked on his campaign.

Beyond his support for the inclusion of the LGBT community into the hate-crimes and nondiscrimination laws, Newman is eager to spearhead measures to bring greater opportunities to the transgender community — including funding for sexual-reassignment surgery — and to stem the tide of LGBT youth homelessness.

As an educator, he said he’s seen that schools need to include “character-education curricula” to foster heightened respect among students, and said he would support the creation of an LGBT school if the community is supportive.

If elected, Newman plans to introduce healthcare legislation that includes a stipulation that state contractors must offer domestic-partner benefits to employees and would advocate for strict penalties, such as the loss of the business-privilege license, for contractors who have discriminatory practices.

Newman is a marriage-equality advocate who officiated at the ceremony of two of his gay friends more than two decades ago.

“My history with the LGBT community has been one of involvement as an equal, as a friend,” he said. “No one knows the needs of the LGBT community better than its members, and I count them as friends.”

195th Anthony Ingargiola

Communications consultant Ingargiola is looking to succeed retiring state Rep. Frank Oliver.

Ingargiola said he would work to ensure civil unions become a viable option for same-sex couples but would ultimately be in favor of full marriage equality.

To curb harassment against LGBT youth, Ingargiola would promote initiatives like the Day of Silence to heighten awareness about LGBT issues. In terms of the LGBT elderly community, Ingargiola would “seek either court action or work to change the law to ensure equality for LGBT seniors, whether that involved co-habitation of same-sex partners, survivor rights or simple treatment with fairness and dignity.”

Ingargiola, an advocate of the LGBT-inclusive hate-crimes and nondiscrimination bills, said workplace diversity should begin at the top, with the inclusion of LGBT staffers in state government positions.

If elected, Ingargiola, whose campaign chair is openly gay, said he would enhance government transparency and would “stay active as an ally with the LGBT community to stay in tune with the issues that are most affecting them.”

Ingargiola has been endorsed by Liberty City Democratic Club.

201st John Myers

State Rep. Myers has represented the 201st District in Northwest Philadelphia since 1995.

Myers is currently cosponsoring the LGBT-inclusive hate-crimes and nondiscrimination bills and the civil-union bill and also supports full marriage equality.

Myers said he’d back any initiative to curb anti-LGBT school bullying and discrimination against LGBT seniors.

Myers said he would support mandating domestic-partner policies for state contractors, adding his office employs a nondiscrimination hiring policy.

“I will continue to support efforts that protect the LGBT community from discrimination and unfair practices,” he said. “I will also support the continuing practices of nondiscriminatory hiring practices of LGBT constituents through current state and federal laws.”

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Alan Christopher
May 17, 2010
PGN has again looked into its cracked crystal ball and endorsed the wrong person. It is less important what a war-chest holds or a how single issue plays out across the board in the final analysis. The only democrat that has a chance of winning the election this fall is Dan Onorato because NO ONE outside the five counties of SE PA will vote for another Philly politican running for governor. And in the long run, isn't it better to support the team and not the home-town high school star?