Getting On Our Soapbox

Recommendations for the 2014 Primary

Tuesday, May 20th is Election Day in Pennsylvania. This election is exciting because there are some really competitive big ticket races like Governor and Congress, but there are also some really important little races -- such as your representation on Democratic State Committee. The polls are open from 7AM to 8PM. If you live in Philadelphia, and you are not sure where to vote, you can find your polling place by clicking here.

As I do each election cycle, I have put down my thoughts on the election below to be used as a guide for any of my friends looking for advice on who to vote for. Feel free to pull this up on your smartphone in the polling booth to guide you in your voting, or ignore it and vote for whoever you want. Just make me a promise that you’ll vote.

This election cycle we choose the Democratic nominees for Governor, Lt. Governor, members of Congress, State Senator in even numbered districts, and State Representative.  We also fill two key Democratic Party leadership positions.  You will have a chance to vote for several members of Democratic State Committee, and two people to be your Democratic Committee person.

For personal reasons, I am going to go a little out of order and start at the bottom of the ballot.


You may know that I am running for Democratic State Committee. It is a unpaid leadership position within the State Democratic Party. Each county elects a certain number of committee members, based on their population. Philadelphia gets to elect over 50 members, which are divided up by State Senate District. I live in the First Senate District, which encompasses most of South Philly, all of Center City, and some of the river wards. Because the party has gender parity rules, if you live in my district, you may vote for 4 men and 4 women. Please vote for me and the following slate of candidates:

Micah Mahjoubian (#121), Matthew Myers (#122), Darrell Clarke (#123), Marylouise Isaacson (#125), Nekisha Fulton (#127), Thomas Rumbaugh (#128), and Michelle Rumbaugh (#129).


Allyson Schwartz (#104) – While we are lucky to have 4 exceptional candidates running for Governor, all of whom would be much better than the current incumbent Republican Tom Corbett, Allyson Schwartz is the only candidate that has a record of accomplishment and proven experience to run the Commonwealth. In 1990, after being elected as the third woman to ever serve in the Pennsylvania Senate, she was instrumental in passing Pennsylvania Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) – a program so successful that President Bill Clinton used Allyson’s legislation as a national model. Today, CHIP provides health coverage to 11 million American children. She is a tireless advocate for children and education, women’s issues and LGBT rights. In fact, Allyson was one of just a handful of State Senators who opposed the anti-LGBT Defense of Marriage Act when it passed in the mid 90’s. 

Allyson is an exciting candidate for Governor because she is our best hope to defeat incumbent Tom Corbett and help elect Democrats across the state in what is predicted to be a rough election for Democrats nationally. She will be our first ever female Governor, and that historic opportunity will help turn out an excited base of core Democratic voters we need to be successful.  I urge you to vote Allyson Schwartz for Governor.


Mike Stack (#105) — Mike Stack has served Northeast Philadelphia as a state senator for several years and has a great record as a progressive Democrat.  He is one of just 3 Senators in the region that scored a 100% on Liberty City LGBT Democrats issue scorecard.  He's running a statewide television ad that touts his support of marriage equality—the first time any candidate has ever done that in Pennsylvania history. He is also a Philly guy, and in a state that is so hostile towards our city, we could use all the Philadelphians we can get in leadership positions in Harrisburg.


District 1: Bob Brady (#110) — If you live east of Broad Street, you are likely in the 1st District.  Bob Brady is the Chairman of the Democratic Party and is running unopposed.  He deserves your vote. 

District 2: Chaka Fattah (#110) — If you live west of Broad Street, you are likely in the 2nd District.  Chaka Fattah is running unopposed and clearly deserves re-election.

District 8: Shaughnessy Naughton – The 8th congressional district serves Bucks County and portions of Montgomery County. Republican Mike Fitzpatrick has represented this district since 2011. This is one of the few swing districts left in Congress, and the Democratic nominee has a real chance of picking up this seat. Shaughnessy is a strong candidate that has proven that she can beat Fitzpatrick. She is a scientist and business owner, has been endorsed by Ed Rendell and the Philadelphia Inquirer. And with Allyson Schwartz leaving Congress, we may be left with a Pennsylvania Delegation with absolutely zero women serving. Shaughnessy would help keep that from happening, and she deserves your vote.

District 13:  Val Arkoosh (#111) — This is the hardest decision I have had to make for an election. There is a field of four fantastic candidates, all of whom would serve us well in Congress. I have friends working in all four campaigns, and I know all four candidates personally. I was going to not make a recommendation, but I have to say I am so impressed with the campaign run by Val Arkoosh, that my conscious is telling me that I should throw my support behind her, for whatever little it is worth. Val is a Doctor and was a leader in the fight to pass the Affordable Care Act. She really understand activism, coalition building, and has pretty good political sense. I have been wowed by her campaign, and she really seems to have the momentum. And as I stated before, we need more women in Congress from Pennsylvania. I believe it is important to replace Allyson Schwartz with another woman. Arkoosh would serve us well in that position.

That said, I interned for Marjorie Margolies when she held this seat for one term in 1992-94. She was the tie breaking vote to pass Bill Clinton’s 1993 budget, which raised taxes on the wealthy, and many of her constituents. It was a tough vote, but one of the most important votes of my lifetime in politics. I respect Marjorie, and believe she too would make a good Congresswoman.

These two are also running against State Representative Brendan Boyle and State Senator Daylin Leach. Boyle is the only candidate from Philly, and as I said, it is important for us to send more Philadelphians to Congress. He would also represent us well. Finally, Leach is known as the Liberal Lion—because he is. He introduced legislation to legalize marijuana, and to bring marriage equality to Pennsylvania. He is right (or should I say left) on all the issues, and a pretty funny dude…if he does say so himself. 

If you don’t vote for Val Arkoosh, all three other candidates would do us proud.


2nd District: Tina Tartaglione (#116) – Tina has served in the Senate since 1994 and has been a reliable vote for issues important to Philadelphia. She’s authored Pennsylvania’s landmark 2006 minimum wage increase and was instrumental in the establishment of the state Office for People with Disabilities. She is wheel-chair bound and understands the barriers faced by people with disabilities. I believe that is an important perspective for a legislator. Her opponents have not, in my opinion, made a clear case against her.

4th District: Brian Gralnick (#114) – The current incumbent is Senator Leanna Washington who has been indicted on corruption charges for allegedly using legislative staff to raise money for her campaigns.  She should not be re-elected.  Brian Gralnick is a progressive activist that is well suited to the district. He deserves your vote.


74th District: Joshua Young — This Chester County race pits two young men, both named Josh, against each other.  Josh Young is a Township Commissioner, and runs his family auto mechanic business.  He is openly gay, and has been endorsed by Liberty City LGBT Democrats.

173rd District: Mike Driscoll (#119) – Mike Driscoll is a business owner and longtime Northeast Philly community Activist.  He is a friend.  He will make a great Representative. 

175th District: Mike O’Brien (#118) – Mike is my State Representative. He is a friend and a mentor.  He is one of the great old school liberals in Harrisburg and makes it his mission to stand up to the lunatics on the right, which are all to prevalent in Harrisburg. He is also one of the main reasons that the John C. Anderson LGBT Apartments is standing today. He helped bring home $6 million in state funds for the construction of the project, and today, there are over 60 grateful LGBT and allied seniors living with dignity in a fabulous new building. He is facing a challenger, so please vote for Mike.

182nd District: Brian Sims (#117) – Brian is one of the first two openly gay state representatives serving in Harrisburg, and he has been a rock star on so many progressive issues. He is running unopposed, but it is important that we send him back to Harrisburg.

186th District: Jordan Harris (#117) – Jordan is also running unopposed, but he is another rising star in Democratic politics. He is a great friend of mine, and if you live in the 186th, Jordan deserves your vote.

194th District: Dave Henderson (#117) – Dave is running against incumbent Pam Delissio. Pam is heavily criticized by residents of her district for not being involved in the community. She lives full time in Harrisburg, and suffered a bit of a scandal when she was almost knocked off the ballot because when it was reported she had her car registered in Harrisburg and listed her Harrisburg home as her primary address to pay less in taxes and insurance premiums. She also scored a measly 33% on Liberty City’s LGBT Issue Scorecard.  Dave is an energetic and enthusiastic young man who would represent the district well.

202nd District: Mark Cohen (#117) – Mark is the longest serving member of the State House of Representatives, and has a strong record as a leader on liberal causes. He is right on all the issues, and is one of the most thoughtful and hardest working legislator in Harrisburg. He deserves to be re-elected.


Ed Neilson (#301) – Councilman Bill Green resigned from Council this winter to accept an appointment to head the School Reform Commission. His seat is open and up for a Special Election. By law, that means that the leadership of each main political party in Philadelphia chooses a nominee which will appear on the ballot as a General Election contest. While all the other races I discussed can only be voted on by Democrats, this race is open to Republicans and Independents as well. Ed is a State Representative from Northeast Philly and has a long history of political and community activism. I first got to know Ed in 1998 when I worked with him on the very first campaign I ran in Philadelphia. He loves Philadelphia, and is a skilled and experienced public official. He is an advocate of the LGBT community and scored a perfect 100% on the Liberty City LGBT Scorecard

Many progressives do not like how he was chosen to run, and believe the process should be changed.  Regardless of how you feel, do not hold that against him. He was nominated fairly, and deserves to be elected.


Question #1: Vote Yes – This would give Council the power to enact a minimum wage for subcontractors on City Contracts.

Question #2: Vote Yes – This would end the so-called “resign to run” provision of the charter, allowing elected city officials to run for another office without resigning his or her current seat. I believe the current system creates a playing field in Philadelphia where we have less competitive elections. We act like running for office is a bad thing. It’s not. I would like to have the greatest number of choices for every election. Competition allows for a healthy dialogue about what kind of priorities we expect from our government officials, and it helps drive voter turnout which engages more people in the process. The current system discourages qualified people from running for office, because if they believe they currently have a safe seat, why should they risk it? You can read more about my thoughts on this issue in a column I was quoted in written by my friend John Featherman for

Question #3: Vote Yes – This would require City Council approval for contracts for one year or less for the purpose of providing legal representation for indigent persons, including criminal defendants, juveniles, and dependent children.

Tags: elections, democrats