Brett Burman is the Victory Fund Spotlight Candidate in Pennsylvania’s 9th Senate District. If elected, Brett will be the first openly LGBTQ state senator in the state.
Victory Fund: There’s a lot going on right now, especially with coronavirus. How is your campaign adjusting to this new world we find ourselves in?
Brett Burman: Our campaign’s greatest strength was our ground game, and COVID-19 has forced us to halt it entirely. That means we are more dependent than usual on paid voter outreach using mail and digital. On top of that, we’re having to budget for a longer primary than expected due to a potential delay. We are asking our supporters to help us bridge that gap with contributions of any size.
VF: As a former teacher, what’s your assessment of the state of Pennsylvania’s public schools?
BB: I taught at a public school in the Bronx, where most of my students lived in poverty, so it hits home when I learned that Pennsylvania has the largest wealth gap between rich and poor districts in the country. Large numbers of districts are either financially distressed or in receivership. The causes are the declining state funding of public education and the country’s worst charter-school law. I will fight to restore the state’s share of funding to the level it was at when I started in school, and reform our laws to stop charter operators from profiteering off education at our kids’ expense.
VF: Pennsylvania is one of 29 states that allow children to undergo the dubious practice of “conversion therapy,” despite bipartisan support in favor of banning it. How will your election to the state Senate change the equation on this issue?
BB: Until I was nearly 30, I denied my truth and tried whatever I could to make myself something else. It accomplished nothing but making me unhappy and insecure. I can only image the added trauma of having such “therapy” forced on you. By telling my story, and advocating forcefully for a ban on conversion therapy, I hope to eliminate the use of this pseudoscientific practice.
VF: One of the issues setting you apart from your primary opponents is your support for a moratorium on fracking. Why is the moratorium needed?
BB: We need to move away from fracking and have a moratorium on all fossil fuel projects, including the Mariner East pipelines. Pennsylvania is the 4th largest producer of greenhouse gases in the country, which means we must be one of the leaders in fighting climate change. Instead our legislature has continued a headlong embrace of the fossil fuel industry. My opponent represents the pro-fracking, pro-fossil fuel wing of the PA Democratic Party. We need forward thinking leadership that can create jobs which don’t come at the expense of our community and our future.
VF: As a first-time candidate, what’s something that’s surprised you during the campaign so far?
BB: The huge gap between what voters are calling for and what the establishment wants. My campaign’s strength comes from the bottom up, not the top down. I think that is increasingly the new model for the strongest campaigns, especially in local races.
VF: What’s the best place to grab lunch in Pennsylvania’s 9th Senate District?
BB: If you’re looking for a great cheesesteak, you can’t beat Phil & Jim’s in Parkside.
The Pennsylvania primary is scheduled for April 28. For more information, visit https://www.voteburman.com/.