Guys, What Is Going On With Rep. Babette Josephs?

Rep. Babette Josephs, Democratic representative in the 182nd District, has been a popular name in our inbox over the last few days. In her first campaign mailer (which has a Lost In Space theme because … timeliness?), she attacked her opponent Brian Sims, saying he falls in line with Tom Corbett‘s awful, awful policies. And in return, Sims’ campaign claims that Josephs may be in violation of ethics rules. According to Sims’ campaign:

…language from a page on the legislative website of Rep. Josephs matches language on her campaign site, word for word in most cases. If the language originated from the legislative website, it could be considered using legislative resources for campaign activities like was the case in the multiple Bonusgate scandals. If the language originated from the campaign website, according to the Ethical Conduct Rules of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives it could be considered in breach of ethics rules.”

In addition, we recieved a letter from Dr. Nina Ahmad, a Sims supporter, telling us about a handwritten note she received from Josephs. In said note, Josephs said, “I understand the hunger, the need to have at least one openly gay person in the state legislature … my opponent is not that individual.” According to Josephs, Sims isn’t the right gay person, probably just as female supporters of the ultrasound bill aren’t real women. The letter from Ahmad and a picture of the letter from Josephs are reprinted after the jump.

As a woman of color I identify with people who are “others” in politics, whether or not they are Asian or female. I identify with people who have taken strength from being the other, who have not come to be defined by their otherness but rather, are defined by their ability to build progress by finding common ground. (I co-founded a group called Asian Pacific Americans for Progress, a national grassroots network of Asian Pacific Americans and allies).

I am supporting Brian Sims, a Democratic running for the 182nd PA House seat in Center City. As a business owner in the city, I was first drawn to his candidacy because I believe in a representative Democracy and it is time we elect Pennsylvania’s first openly LGBT legislator. In getting to know Brian I found out that he’s certainly not just a “gay guy who’s running for office,” he’s a proven progressive leader who happens to be gay. My support for him has only grown as I’ve gotten to know him and understand his vision for change.

When I support a candidate for office I expect to get some blow back from their opponent. But what I didn’t expect was for Rep. Babette Josephs, a 27-year incumbent who purports to be the champion of all things equality related, to send me hand written note that flies in the face of just about everything she claims to stand for.

Her letter explains that she “understands the hunger, the need to have at least one openly gay person in the state legislature.” I didn’t have a clue what she is referring to and then she goes on to say that Brian is not that individual, that in fact she is supporting Chris Dietz, another gay Democrat running near Harrisburg, and that she intends to serve with him. And she then closed the letter ever so crudely: “I’d very much appreciate your support. Please make your check out to Elect Babette Josephs.”

I was floored. In 2010 Rep. Josephs said her opponent was lying about being bisexual. And now her opponent is either just gay or just isn’t the right gay person. As someone who claims to be a champion of the LGBT community she sure has a funny way of showing it.

We’ve never had an Asian state legislator. If an Asian candidate were running against her, would she want to swap one Asian for another just as easily? Imagine if a long time male incumbent had a woman running against him and suggested that she just wasn’t the right woman, but that he had a “better” one in mind. How would that sound?

This type of divisive identity politics displays a complete disregard for everything Rep. Josephs purports to stand for and shows that there is no depth that she won’t stoop to protect her incumbency. Her recent flip flop about her “yes” vote on the “Year of the Bible” resolution further illustrates her cynical approach to her job. Either she knew full well and voted yes with little regard to the separation of church and state, or lied to John Baer and said “she intends to actually read future resolutions before voting on them.” Either way it is preposterous!!

We as Philadelphians have always accepted a very low bar for our politicians, but in 2012 that has got to change. I don’t want my daughters to grow up in a city where our differences continue to define us and drive us apart.

Four years ago a Senator from Illinois came here and delivered a speech that mused about a world of post-racial politics. We may never reach a world that is completely post-racial, but in order to reach a more perfect union we need to keep striving to get as close as we can.

I hope that in 2012 we can start talking about post-identity politics. We have values driven leaders like Brian Sims who are willing to put themselves out there and step into the crazy world of the public sphere.

When Brian gets to Harrisburg he is going to work to create jobs, fight for better schools and a cleaner environment. His sexuality won’t matter when he’s debating taxes and defending reproductive rights. It’s a shame that his sexuality is issue enough to Rep. Josephs that she feel inclined to try to use it against him.

When long-term incumbents are backed up against the wall, they tend to desperately lash out. They act as if they are entitled to their seats; they forget that their seats belong to the people. On April 24 we have a chance to remind Rep. Josephs whom she answers to. It’s about time we let her know defending one’s hide at all costs is no longer an acceptable way to do politics in Philadelphia anymore.

-Dr. Nina Ahmad

32 Responses to “Guys, What Is Going On With Rep. Babette Josephs?”

  1. madamedakar Says:

    Support your local gay superhero!

  2. Dan Says:

    The thing that I never have understood about Sims’ campaign, and this from someone who knows him and likes him- if Babette needs to be beaten, if she is so bad, etc etc etc., why was he her campaign treasurer in the very last election cycle?  

    I don’t see a lot of difference in her campaign now versus the assortment of ambitious, young, white men that have run against her each cycle (Hohns, Farnese, whoever ran last time, etc.).  I certainly don’t see a big difference in her governing style from now to 24 months ago.  And, if she was not only good enough for Brian to vote for, but to in fact, serve on the campaign of, this all seems a little odd.  

    No one has a ‘right’ to a seat, including Rep. Josephs, but, something about that seems a little dirty and I have never heard a clear explanation as to how he could go so fast from campaign treasurer to primary opponent.

  3. Phabphil76 Says:

    Brian could have run in his former district, where Kenyatta Johnston’s seat was vacated by his election to City Council.  Yet, what further confuses me about his campaign is that he chose to run against Joseph’s campaign he served as Treasurer just two years prior.  

  4. CenterCityGal1973 Says:

    These comments are starting to sound a lot like the talking points from a few of Babette’s campaign people. Every paper that has reviewed this or researched it has quickly found out that Brian moved out of the district for only 2 years for a relationship years ago and moved back in long before there was a vacancy. The suggestion that he isn’t running in his district is insane and only being made by Babette herself. Either the Babette people have their math way off or they just refuse to accept the facts that have been clearly layed out. Either way, it doesn’t add up but neither does much of her campaign these days. I also know that a full year passed between the time that Brian was her volunteer treasurer and when he decided to run. I know that facts and dates are hard to argue with when they don’t tell the “story” you’re trying to make up, but they’re still out there…as true today as they were yesterday!

  5. Dan Says:

    Center City Gal- I don’t work for Babette, nor have I talked to her, nor do I know anything about where Brian lives.  

    But, one year means what?  It is literally the least amount of time he could take, given the timing of campaign cycles.  Again, Babette– love her or hate her– seems pretty darn identical to two years ago.  (And four years ago, and ten years ago, and so on.) Brian is far from the first person to say that it is a problem that she is overly strident and doesn’t get things done.  So, if Brian was serving on her campaign, raising money for her, etc., what changed to make her need to be removed from office?  Until I hear a good explanation for that, it is hard for me to support him.  

  6. DBeckham Says:

    @99641b08a9d9b3e712cc83359244fc28:disqus So, did you ever think at the time Brian volunteered he may have thought Babett was the better candidate? Then, after working for her he realized that she wasn’t as effective leader as he thought? I would think that their is no better person to know whether someone is effective than someone  who was working for her…Maybe this isn’t an acceptable explanation to you, but it is to me. 

    Personally, I vote for candidates for their actions not for what they say. So what if he worked for her, if you believe Brian can do better, then vote for him. If you want the status quo, the vote for the incumbent (lot’s of talk with no actions). 

  7. friendlynerd Says:

    I have no horse in this race – I don’t live in that district – but that attack ad is disgusting and has only served to lower my opinion of Josephs, someone I really didn’t have a problem with before.

  8. Paprogressive Says:

    I think this woman is misunderstanding what Babette was saying.  She wasn’t questioning Brian’s sexual orientation she was saying she doesn’t think he’s “the right guy” to be the first openly gay State Rep.   She supports Dietz being the first.

  9. Dan Says:

    First, he didn’t just volunteer- he was treasurer, literally putting his name was on everything that campaign sent out.  

    Second, no, your explanation doesn’t really fly with me, because love her or hate her, one thing she has been is consistent, including with her effectiveness, or lack thereof.  See every single person who has run against her.  For example: 

    Her lack of effectiveness and all of the rest is “THE” criticism of her, and has been for plenty of time.  Unless Brian has had his head in the sand, I doubt he missed that.

  10. MBL Says:

    I think everyone understands what you’re saying, Dan.

    First, Treasurer of a campaign IS a volunteer position.

    Second, think of Babette as Andy Reid. Both have been great in their roles, but not nearly as EFFECTIVE as they could and should have been. While Andy Reid has been coach, few in management would be eager to replace him, because the question isn’t simply: “Keep him or dump him?” The question is: “If we dump him, who do we replace him with?” In Babette’s case, the question is much the same. Until Brian came along, there was simply no one better than Babette. Now that Brian is running, the choice is clear. Babette isn’t bad, just not nearly as good as Brian will be.

    In any event, remember to VOTE on Tuesday, April 24th!

  11. MBL Says:

     If I recall correctly, Brian doesn’t live in Kenyatta Johnson’s district anymore, and hasn’t for quite some time.

  12. DBeckham Says:

    @99641b08a9d9b3e712cc83359244fc28:disqus I guess we will have to agree to disagree. But, in her attack ad above, inside she states that she fought against voter id, mandatory ultrasounds, etc and thats great. However, if I’m correct, every single bill that she fought against became law. She then argues that Brian will work with the republicans, I guess arguing, thats a bad thing. Isn’t that s State Senators job? How is not working with a conservative majority not just as bad as the republicans in Congress who refuse to work with Obama? If thats the case, the voters of the 182nd district should just elect a puppet until the senate becomes a liberal majority. Then, with every vote the puppet can vote for the liberal agenda without getting anything done. 

    Babette stood for a lot of good, however, standing without accomplishing anything doesn’t get my vote. 

    Not to mention, that letter is so insulting. 

    The one thing I will agree with you, I hate when politicians run on a platform where they say, “vote for me because I am not them”. However, that’s not what Brian is doing. Go to and read what his platform is…I think you will like it.

  13. Dan Says:

    Don’t get me wrong, I sure don’t think she is perfect.  And, I think her arguments– and that particular attack against Brian– can be truly out there.  The idea that Brian shares any principals with Corbett is totally ridiculous.  No disagreement there.  But, to be clear, we also agree that Brian Sims also would not have stopped the Voter ID law, the ultrasound law, etc?  And really, would have accomplished very little in the context of a GOP Governor, GOP Senator, and historically small amount of Dem Reps in the House?

  14. DBeckham Says:

    @99641b08a9d9b3e712cc83359244fc28:disqus I agree with you, but arguing that you can’t get anything done because of a conservative majority gets old. And, let’s face it, her political add showcased legislation that she “fought against” and didn’t get it done. She didn’t have anything else that could’ve highlighted her time in office? She couldn’t highlight what she has done for the district? 
    I may be right or I may be wrong, but I believe, Brian will try to build relationships with other side and maybe through those relationships will help get some things done that otherwise wouldn’t get done if you polarize yourself from other side. So far the status quo has been fine, but I want better. I feel its time for a change.  Hopefully, on the 24th, change will come.

    Nice to have a pleasant debate with you.  

  15. Marcstier Says:

    It’s amazing how elections that are between candidates who have no discernible issues between them get so silly. Nina Ahmad is reading all kinds of nefarious stuff into Babette’s note when all Babette means is that (a) she thinks she should be reelected and (b) there are other considerations besides identity politics that play a role in choosing a candidate.

  16. SurprisedProgressive Says:

    Really? Telling a woman of color how she should react to a note like this one? Really? If all Rep. Josephs been doing were explaining why she should be re-elected and why identity politics don’t matter (and she’s the FIRST to say that they DO MATTER and women should elect women because they’re women, AKA her support of KATHLEEN KANE over Patrick Murphy) than she would have talked about herself, her record, her career, or anything other than Chris Dietz and money. Please, please, please don’t tell a woman of color how she’s supposed to respond to a presumtuous and divisive attack on her challenger’s supporters.

  17. Julia Ramsey Says:

    I would like to comment as the PROUD Campaign Manager of Babette Josephs’ campaign. I appreciate the speculation that the pro-Babette comments were by staffers but they were posted before any of us even read this, but I digress.

    Babette has been representing my values, as a liberal, a woman and as someone who cares deeply about social justice and the issues that affect working families, since before I was born. This mail was both my idea and I approved it. Why you might ask? Well simply put, Brian has been talking about how he will be more effective because he can work across the aisle. Sounds nice right? Our government is controlled by extremist republicans, republicans who seeks to take away to rights of women and minorities, who are starving our public education system and programs that benefit the neediest among us. Every time I hear Brian say this, I think that he is either incredibly naive and does not understand the current political climate in Harrisburg or he is willing to bend his values in the name of something that sounds nice and polls well. I am sick of Democrats (about 1/3 of the caucus on every important vote) bending on our values. If either of my gut feelings are true about him, that makes him unfit to serve Center City.

    Call this an attack piece all you want, it is. We have the guts to admit we will fight for our values. His press release is just another example of Brian trying to bully Babette out of her job

  18. Julie Says:

    Shame on Babette Josephs for not transforming all 202 of her colleagues in Harrisburg into progressive, gay-friendly, minority-friendly, women-friendly, Philly-friendly advocates over the years. What has she been doing all this time? Our state legislators love to listen to progressives from center city Philadelphia. If there were a new sheriff in town like Mr. Simms, he’d surely have the General Assembly eating out of the palm of his hand. Get ready for the Medicaid and education funding spree if he wins.

    In all seriousness, it’s truly sad that while our voting rights, education funding and children’s Medicaid are being slashed, that dems would spend money or time on such a ridiculous primary challenge. Josephs is a progressive stalwart and we need her in Harrisburg. I am sure Brian Simms would make a good legislator as well and he should seek one of the many seats that are frequently unopposed. This primary nets us nothing.

  19. friendlynerd Says:

     Comments like “bully Babette out of her job” perfectly illustrate the Philadelphia political mentality – it is MY seat and I am ENTITLED to it.

    You’d think a campaign manager would choose words more carefully, because they do have meaning.

  20. CenterCityGal73 Says:

    Wow, you know you’re losing when your Campaign Manager is responding to comments on Philebrity! Are you also responsible for this gem of political trash, Ms. Ramsey? It’s going to be famous in Philadelphia for years. Any chance the designer is secretly a Sims supprter? This screams unqualified or inexperienced to me – and well everyone – so maybe you want to delete your previous post and try to start backtracking from this political flop now. You are paid to do this, right?

  21. 182nd Voter Says:

     The last gasps of a dying political lawn ornament.

  22. Marc Stier Says:

    Being a woman of color doesn’t exempt one from reading what a
    candidate for office, even a candidate for office one opposes, fairly and
    honestly. Babette’s note says, somewhat infelicitously, that yes identity
    politics matter but it is not the only thing that matters. Yes we should elect
    out gays to office, but that’s not the only relevant consideration in choosing
    who we should vote for. Same thing goes for women and blacks and Asians. That’s
    what most progressives think. And it’s presumably what Nina Ahmad thinks, too
    or is she telling us that w should vote for any gay or Asian no matter what?

    To try to make this note a campaign issue is not just
    ridiculous. It’s a strong sign that the Sims campaign can’t find any really
    good reasons not to reelect Babette Josephs.

  23. Susieq321 Says:

    I attended the debate last night and it left me wondering after 27 years what new does Representative Josephs have to offer?  Over and over again she said no one can work with the republicans and it wasn’t worth trying, that dismays me to hear there is no room for working together and finding common ground.
    I also didn’t hear how she was working for Philadelphia she kept saying she worked on hard issues rather than legislation but never ever defined the hard work. What is the hard issues she is working on for all I learned last night it hard work could be choosing a lunch venue for the day.
    Lastly I wonder after 27 years in a society that is moving faster and faster every day what does she have to offer me? How is she adapting to social media? How is she promoting the 182nd with the new technology today? 

    One other little thing disturbed me, before the debate when Josephs entered the coffee shop she came over to the area where I was sitting and shook the hands of every man standing around me and didn’t look at me or offer to shake my hand and introduce herself. I stepped forward and introduced myself just as she was about to walk away. I have never met a politician who doesn’t want to shake hands of potential voters ever and I wondered for a second or two if she overlooked me because I was the only women in the group? 

  24. Susieq321 Says:

    Brian has mentioned publicly he lives in Washington Sq West vs his old district… people move….
    And people get older and less relevant, everyone retires sometime and it seems to be Babette’s time.

  25. SoPhi Says:

    So you think she’s old, apparently people over the age of 60 are irrelevant in our culture in Susie’s eyes.

  26. SoPhi Says:

    Susie, that’s brilliant. The woman who started NARAL in our state, who has continuously fought for women’s rights, who has an all female staff, a female campaign manager, an office that her chief of staff breast feeds in is anti-woman. Good one.

  27. Susieq321 Says:

    I didn’t say she was ant-women… I just said it made me wonder why she shook all the hands of the men in the area and skipped little ole me…. maybe my vote doesn’t count. It stood out in my mind that she shook the hands of everyone else and turned away when she reached me… if I hadn’t stepped forward she would have walked away. 

  28. Susieq321 Says:

    I pondered is she relevant maybe she should stand up and say how she is relevant. I listened to her go on and on about the important and hard things she does all day long and she neglected to define any of those important, hard and hopefully relevant things….  She needs to make herself relevant and so far I haven’t read or heard anything that makes her relevant….

    Last night she said  Harrisburg needs to restore funding.. WRONG ANSWER that is part of the reason we are in this financial mess… the answer is encourage revenue generating businesses to stay in Philadelphia, contributing to the tax base in multiple ways…. not go to the state government begging for more.I have a 70 year old mother who programs her own websites and manages somehow to stay relevant even over the age of 60 go figure! Right now I think listening to Babette she isn’t relevant and needs to retire and make way for something new… we all need to move on once in a while.. change jobs, change cities and hopefully retire one day.

  29. SoPhi Says:

    You couldn’t be more wrong about school funding, I suggest educating yourself on the issue before you make comment. The truth is that the state’s constitution states that it must fund 50% of public education, until  Gov. Rendell and the democrats enacted the funding formula in 2009 PA was funding at about 35%. In the largest school district in the state, with the neediest population that means real underfunding. Just because you don’t understand the issues doesn’t make Babette wrong.

  30. Judge Judy Says:

    Thank you Madame.  You just reinforced my point.  I’m so glad that Mr. Sims has gotten so much positive media publicity nationally.  I just wish he was as committed to the 182nd district that I live in than himself.

    A superhero saves people out of burning buildings.  Protects people from being shots on the streets of North Philly.  His career consisted of practicing law for himself for one year, and then going on a national speaking tour.

    Cut the bullshit.  There is no policy differences between Babette and Sims.  He has planned a calculated attack on his former employer by trying to say he’s paying “homage to her years in public service”.

    Save it for somebody who will buy that sack of shit.

    I hope you never get old.  Because when the day comes when someone deems you irrelevant, and all of your friends turn on you simply because someone new comes along, you’ll know what it feel likes to be betrayed and targeted.

    Spare this and this entire conversation.  The only time Sims shows up in this community is when he wants to be seen.  And that’s why you see such discord in this race.

    His personal ambitions are splitting this community right in half, and the damage that he’s done, win or loose, will cripple us for years.

    That’s no superhero in my book.

  31. 182nd Voter Says:

    By “nets us nothing” are you referring to electing a legislator who will work to actually move and pass bills in the legislature?? Surely we ALL have something to gain from a state rep who works AS A LEGISLATOR to create progressive change. We need such a progressive legislator, not simply a progressive mouthpiece who alienates her colleagues and is toxic to any piece of legislation she touches!

  32. Susieq321 Says:

    I didn’t mention school funding I mentioned funding period…. as she did in the debate it was a lumped in funding statement not specific to education alone.

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