After a botched run for Congress, state Rep. Brian Sims just narrowly held onto his House district in downtown Philadelphia after fending off former Senate staffer Ben Waxman and two other primary challengers in 2016.
Now, it looks like the state’s first out legislator will face Waxman once again in 2018.
Sources told City&State PA that Waxman had recently retained former Mayor’s Fund deputy Jasmine Sessoms to act as finance director for his campaign – which Waxman affirmed, in a phone call.
“Jasmine was hired to help me raise money to run for the 182nd (district),” said Waxman, who said he was still in the early stages of planning his campaign.
Waxman, who was a longtime aide to state Sen. Vince Hughes, left that office in 2017 and currently runs a PR consultancy. His firm’s clients include Democratic DA candidate Larry Krasner and Judge Ellen Ceisler. Ceisler Media, a communications firm run by Ceisler’s former husband, and several local businesses are also current clients, he said.
A former reporter for the Daily News, Waxman is married to Julie Wertheimer, a high-ranking staffer in Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration. He is also allied with Babette Josephs, who was defeated by Sims, a lawyer and an LGBT motivational speaker, after a bloody campaign in 2012. Sims and Waxman waged a similarly acrimonious battle for the seat in 2016, which saw the pair spar over their respective progressive credentials and support for the district’s large gay community, as did fellow candidates Lou Lanni and Marni Snyder.
Although all of the candidates described themselves as progressives, at one point in that race, Sims falsely alleged that ‘right-wing extremists’ were plotting to seize his seat. Still reeling from an ill-conceived shot at the 2nd Congressional District, Sims held on to his state Rep. seat with just 6 percent of the vote.
The tight finish, with Waxman coming in a close second, may have further raised tensions between the men.
Sims was the subject of a City&State special report on previously undisclosed gifts he accepted along with ethically questionable honoraria. The reporting was cited in an ethics complaint that hit Sims this year. Waxman said he had nothing to do with the complaint.
In February, Waxman was the apparent victim of a hoax intended to make it appear that he was running for Philadelphia City Controller. That incident came shortly after a parody Twitter account emerged that aimed to depict an imminent Sims candidacy for District Attorney. Both Waxman and sources close to Sims pleaded ignorance to the affair, at the time.
In an emailed response, Sims responded to a looming Round 2 by saying "Ok, great – Ben’s always made it clear that running for office was a childhood dream of his. I ran for office and have been re-elected twice because I have always been focused on fulfilling other people’s dreams, not my own. That’s a difference voters will recognize -- just like they did last time.”