Two gay Pa. politicians gain in the fund-raising game

Posted: December 18, 2013

With political fund-raisers cramming the weekend calendar, cash flows like booze at the annual Pennsylvania Society event in New York City.

Historically, recipients of the bounty are almost always those at the top of the political food chain.

But this year, two rank-and-file lawmakers were the guests of honor at separate buzz-generating fund-raisers at the homes of prominent New Yorkers this past weekend.

Call it the coming-out year for gay pols.

Both Rep. Brian Sims (D., Phila.) and Rep. Mike Fleck (R., Huntingdon) made history last year as the first openly gay members of the legislature.

Sims' sold-out fund-raiser Friday night was at the home of Marc Cherry, creator of the TV show Desperate Housewives.

Sims is no newcomer to the Pennsylvania Society. He had traveled as president of the gay-rights group Equality Pennsylvania. Only then, Sims said, he was on nobody's party list.

"I was the crazy outsider," he recalled in an interview.

No more.

Sims' guests paid as much as $2,500 to attend the party at Cherry's Upper West Side penthouse.

Sims said he met Cherry, a gay Republican active in politics, at a fund-raiser in California a few months ago, and Cherry offered his Manhattan apartment for the Pennsylvania Society event.

Fleck was feted with a $100-a-head brunch Saturday thrown by a Democratic power couple: Victor Gotbaum, the former leader of the city's largest municipal employees union, and his wife, Betsy, the former New York public advocate.

"It was the first time they ever held a fund-raiser for a Republican," said Fleck, whose partner, Warren Licht, director of strategic initiatives for North Shore-Long Island Hospital, is a close friend of the Gotbaums.

Fleck represents rural Huntingdon County, in the central part of the state, and is facing a challenger in the Republican primary next spring.

Sims grabbed national headlines this year when he was blocked from speaking about the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act on the House floor.

Sims says he is amazed at his newfound popularity on the fund-raising circuit, even among some top Republicans.

Sims said House Majority leader Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) made a point of coming up to him after his fund-raiser and told him he was sorry he missed it.


aworden@phillynews.com

717-783-2584 @inkyamy

www.inquirer.com/phillydawg

www.inquirer.com/commonwealthconfidential

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