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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 3, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 18
A cloudy political soup - Philly's election illustrates the LGBT community's growing pains
Section One
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A cloudy political soup - Philly's election illustrates the LGBT community's growing pains

by Mark Segal - Philadelphia Gay News

For my readers nationwide, this may not be of interest to you since it's a local political story. On the other hand, it might serve to point out issues that the LGBT community as a whole is facing, as we grow and find disagreements among ourselves - and, more importantly, the way we deal with them.

The political focus this year in Philadelphia is the city controller's race. The incumbent is most likely the most boring man in the city's political history, Alan Butkovitz.

His main challenger is a smooth-talking 'progressive,' Brett Mandel. Problem is, most progressive organizations want no part of him. Philly for Change, the Progressive Democratic Caucus, and Philadelphia Neighborhood Networks all declined to endorse him. Mandel also lost the endorsement of all the wards in Chestnut Hill - a liberal bastion - and the 30th ward, a gentrified LGBT neighborhood. Thus far, of the 69 wards in the city, Mandel has been endorsed by a total of one.

PANDERING AND PATRONAGE
This is a rematch. Four years ago, Mandel came in third place. So, how is this an LGBT issue? And was it a miscalculation of Mandel's supporters to make LGBT concerns an issue, since the candidate's record in this area is not so good?

It should be noted that Philadelphia's Liberty City Democratic Club, an LGBT organization, did endorse Mandel, but that came at a cost, as the debate at Liberty City's meeting sparked a broader examination of Mandel's tactics. Even more embarrassing, the morning after Liberty City made its endorsement, the Philadelphia Daily News ran a story about Mandel going from city office to city office, demanding a job. And despite that, his main campaign issue has been the Sheriff's Office and patronage in city employment - he had to admit to the News that he asked the sheriff for a $150,000-per-year job (more than the sheriff himself makes). Then he tried the controller's office.

SMEARING A GAY CANDIDATE
But we'll leave the smoke-filled rooms to Mandel and Butkovitz. For this column, let's look at issue one: muscling out the LGBT candidate. Like four years ago, when Mandel came in third place, this year there were several candidates in the running, including Mark Zecca and Michael Williams. If you're a progressive candidate, you should feel you can win the election on merits. Otherwise, you toss mud. And the Mandel campaign and/or its supporters did just that to Williams - an out lawyer who has served the city in public life for more than 20 years. When Mandel's people weren't tossing mud to get Williams out of the race, they labeled him a 'spoiler.' The Gay, African-American attorney with 20 years' experience is a spoiler? Against the third-rate candidate of four years ago?

But here's the real lowdown: When Williams tried to rent a room at the William Way LGBT Community Center - our community's home - a supporter and close friend of Mandel called the center's executive director and threatened that he'd call the IRS and request an audit, claiming the center was getting involved in politics.

Renting a room is not politics, and trying to stir up trouble that way is sleazy. It was brought up at Liberty City, and no one from the Mandel campaign has apologized.

At the very least, Brett Mandel owes this community an apology for attempting to put our community center in the crosshairs.

Mark Segal is publisher of PGN. He can be reached at mark@epgn.com.

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