The campaign for state Rep. Brian Sims (D) is speaking out against reports that a large group of state LGBTQ leaders endorsed his straight opponent, state Rep. Austin Davis (D), over him in the race for Pennsylvania Lt. Governor.
A spokesperson from Sims’s team claims that the number of endorsements/attendees at the event was vastly inflated by a press release from Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s (D) team, and that there were actually only about seven people there. Not only that, but the campaign also claims that at least three of the seven were tricked into attending the event under false pretenses.
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The Shapiro campaign has denied these allegations and does have a list of over 40 LGBTQ leaders it claims have endorsed Davis.
But according to the Sims campaign, a few of those in attendance at the event were allegedly told it was a meeting with Shapiro to discuss LGBTQ legislation, only to find out at the last minute it was an endorsement event for Davis.
The campaign has also accused Mark Segal, publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News (PGN), of intentionally misreporting the story, as a way to bolster support for Davis. The PGN article on the event claims there were 45 endorsements from LGBTQ leaders.
“I was disappointed to hear from so many colleagues and supporters in the LGBTQ community that they were misled and mistreated by Mark Segal and my opponent’s campaign – especially during a time when our community is under attack around the country,” said Sims in a statement provided to LGBTQ Nation. “I’m focused on building a better Commonwealth for all Pennsylvanians and will continue to spend the rest of this campaign and my career working for equality and safety for every citizen of the Commonwealth.”
One leader who was in attendance and has since emphasized his endorsement of Sims was Tyler Titus, who ran for Erie County Executive last year as they fought to become the first out trans county executive in the country. Titus did not win their race, but became a well-known figure. They confirmed to LGBTQ Nation that they indeed endorse Sims for Lt. Gov.
The PGN article quotes a speech Titus made at the event in which he touted the need for LGBTQ protections as well as his support for Shapiro. In the quote, Davis is not mentioned.
“Earlier this week, I joined AG Josh Shapiro for what was described to me from as a meeting with LGBTQ leaders to discuss the best ways to forward LGBTQ legislation in this state,” Titus said in a statement released by the Sims campaign. “Legalized discrimination is why I have drawn so heavily on the hope that lives within the promise of our democratic process so I immediately accepted this opportunity, only to find that the meeting was actually a press conference to endorse a candidate I do not support.”
“No person should ever feel pressured to choose a candidate out of fear of retaliation as that undermines the very fabric of our democracy and principles of our commonwealth. The actions taken by Mark Segal were misleading and a direct abuse of his power.”
“I proudly choose to stand with the candidates that have consistently shown up for those who of us who need our leaders to be visible, bold, and relentless in their pursuit of equity,” Titus continued. “This is why I choose to stand with Attorney General Josh Shapiro for Governor and Representative Brian Sims for Lt. Governor.”
Shapiro also posted a video of the event that clearly shows only a handful of supporters and not dozens.
LGBTQ+ rights and equality are on the ballot this year — and it’s on us to step up and defend them.@AustinDavisPA and I are proud to have the endorsement of LGBTQ+ leaders from across Pennsylvania behind us as we do exactly that. https://t.co/yPRxLG6mTf
— Josh Shapiro (@JoshShapiroPA) March 3, 2022
In response to the allegations, a spokesperson from the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which has endorsed Sims, declared that “Truth is the cornerstone of a healthy democracy and political process” and said that “The notion that LGBTQ leaders and community groups may have been invited to an event under false pretenses to imply their endorsement is unacceptable. In the face of the barrage of anti-LGBTQ attacks our community is actively fighting today, we owe it to ourselves to always treat each other with respect and honesty.”
The spokesperson went on to say it is “proud to support Brian Sims’ historic campaign for Lieutenant Governor. As the only LGBTQ person in the race, he will bring critical LGBTQ representation to the highest levels of Pennsylvania government.”
This article has been updated to reflect the Shapiro campaign’s denial of these allegations.