Brian Sims breaks the mold, unseats a long-time incumbent
April 24, 2012By Dave Davies
At a time when so many of us say we're sick of politicians and want to throw all the bums out, we generally don't.
And that's one lesson from yesterday's legislative races in Pennsylvania. Incumbents prevailed almost everywhere. In the most jaw-dropping case, Greene County State Rep. Bill DeWeese was unopposed in the Democratic primary, even though he quit on election day because he was sentenced to prison for corruption offenses.
But in Philadelphia, the rule was broken by Brian Sims, an openly gay attorney who mobilized a national constituency to unseat a fixture in the city's Harrisburg delegation, Democratic state Rep. Babette Josephs of Center City.
Josephs, who was elected when Ronald Reagan was president, was simply overhelmed by Sims' direct mail and field effort. A veteran committeeman from the 8th ward told me he'd never seen anything like it: 10 direct mail pieces and two election day door-hangers, with plenty of sneakers on the street.
If you look at Sims' campaign finance report, you'll see this is no mystery - scores of contributions, many from out-of-state, reflecting the push to make him the Commonwealth's first openly-gay legislator.
"We set out from the very beginning to run the largest, cleanest, most involved campaign that we could," Sims told me in a brief telephone interview last night. "We reached out to all four corners of this district for volunteers, for support, for help, and we were blessed to get it."
In other races of note, Fatimah Muhammad failed to unseat longtime incumbent State Rep. James Roebuck, despite generous funding from pro-school voucher committees and contributors associated with State Sen. Anthony Williams.
In the Northeast Philadelphia legislative seat vacated by now-City Councilman Dennis O'Brien (and almost certain to be eliminated before the 2014 election), Democrat Ed Neilson, formerly political director of electricians' union Local 98, beat Republican David Kralle in a special election to serve out the final months of O'Brien's term. The two will meet again in November to compete for a full two-year term..
In Montgomery County, Democrat Madeleine Dean handily defeated Republican Nicholas Mattiacci in a special election for the legislative seat vacated by Democrat Josh Shapiro, who left to run successfully for county commissioner.
And T. Milton Street lost yet another bid for elected office, going down in landslide fashion to Democrat Gary Williams for in a special election to the North Philadelphia seat vacated by Phlladelphia Sheriff Jewell Williams.
I doubt we've seen the last of Milton.