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