10:21 PM / Thursday June 1, 2023

20 Apr 2023

LGBTQ voters show wide range of support in mayor’s race

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April 20, 2023 Category: Election 2023 Posted by:

By Katie Finkle 


Note: This story originally appeared in Philadelphia Gay News on March 30, 2023

In a city as liberal and LGBTQ-friendly as Philadelphia, the choice in mayoral elections usually revolves not around Democrat versus Republican, but around which Democratic candidate best meets the specific needs of voters and communities. For LGBTQ Philadelphians, an election that features nearly a dozen Democratic candidates — almost all of whom are supportive of LGBTQ issues — is not just about how a candidate supports their community, but also how they approach the intersection of issues that affect all citizens, such as violence, education, and poverty. PGN spoke with several LGBTQ voters and asked what issues are most important to them and who — if anyone — they are backing for mayor at this time.

Emma Shapiro, an 11th grade chemistry teacher for the School District of Philadelphia, and Christopher Pinto, an LGBTQ community leader who has previously served on the board of the William Way Community Center, have thrown their support behind Jeff Brown. 

Both highlighted how Brown is their best candidate to address issues of public safety, with Shapiro complimenting Brown’s “Vision for Philadelphia,” which outlines the candidate’s approach to topics including quality public education, safe communities, and generational poverty. 

Shapiro and Pinto both said that violence, especially gun violence and crime, were priority issues of concern. “If people don’t feel safe where they live, nothing else matters,” said Pinto. As a teacher, Shapiro noted that “gun violence is the plague in our city, and my students are on the frontline.” 

David Fair, longtime LGBTQ community advocate and HIV/AIDS advocate, agreed that violence needs to be a priority for the city’s next chief executive. “To me it’s obvious that community violence and public education need to take center stage for the next mayor in the short term,” he said.

Fair, who currently serves as Deputy Chief Executive Officer at Turning Point for Children, said that his favorite candidate so far is Helen Gym. “She’s been a strong supporter of LGBTQ issues for decades… I think her commitment to our community was made clear when she held her campaign announcement at the William Way Center!”

Jason Evans, longtime Philly LGBTQ community organizer and human rights activist, is in Allan Domb’s camp. Evans, who co-founded the local voting initiative, has worked with Domb in the past and cited his involvement with local fundraisers supporting the Gayborhood through the pandemic. Evans said he has seen Domb spend time getting to know the community in a way that he hasn’t seen from other city council members and local representatives. “Allan shows up,” Evans said. “Giving the LGBTQ+ community a seat at the table is all we ask for, and Allan does it.”

Evans also agreed with other LGBTQ voters about the need for greater safety for the LGBTQ+ community specifically. “Our community faces trauma just by being who we are,” he said. 

Some voters are looking to hear more from the candidates and learn more about them before making their decision, such as wives Mary Groce and Susan Atlas, who have lived at the John C. Anderson LGBT Apartments since 2014. So far, they are most interested in Helen Gym, Cherelle Parker, Maria Quiñones-Sanchez, and Rebecca Rhynhart, because they provide a sense of representation that is important to the couple.

“Ideally, Suz and I would both prefer seeing a woman of color, since, duh, it’s about time!” Groce said. She also stated that, “Bottom line, however, we’ll vote for whatever Democrat ends up being our candidate.”

Elizabeth Coffey Williams, LGBTQ advocate and co-facilitator of TransWay at the William Way Community Center, wants to be sure before she makes her final choice for mayor that whoever she chooses can turn their words into action. “I’m tired of thoughts and prayers,” Williams said, adding, “the position is important enough that we should take a really good, hard, look at the promises, sensitivity, competence, and history, of what has been accomplished… that’s when we can make our best decision.” 

Williams also noted the imminent need of the next mayor to address the exponential rate at which trans women of color face violence.

Additional public safety needs that were also mentioned mong voters PGN spoke with include greater resources for people dealing with mental health challenges, addiction, and housing insecurity.In addition to Brown, Domb, Gym, Parker, Quiñones-Sanchez, and Rhynhart, the other Democratic candidates for mayor are Warren Bloom, Amen Brown, James DeLeon, Delscia Gray, and Derek S. Green. The primary election in Philadelphia is Tuesday, May 16.

NOTE: Since the original publication of this story, both former Councilmembers Derek Green and Maria Quiñones-Sánchez have suspended their campaigns.

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