Pa. lawmaker who called for doxing of pro-life teens announces run for lieutenant governor

Brian Sims
Pennsylvania state Rep. Brian Sims seen in a video posted to Twitter on May 7, 2019. |

A Pennsylvania state lawmaker who called for the doxing of pro-life teenagers last year has announced that he is running for lieutenant governor.

State Rep. Brian Sims, a Democrat who represents the Philadelphia-based 182nd district in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, announced his bid for lieutenant governor of the commonwealth Monday. 

The incumbent lieutenant governor, John Fetterman, has decided not to run for re-election and is instead seeking the Democratic nomination for Pennsylvania’s open seat in the U.S. Senate.

“After 10 years in the State House, I’ve taken the lessons that my parents taught me & reinforced them in my work as a legislator: to take responsibility, commit to service, be courageous, & push for fairness,” Sims wrote in a tweet accompanying his announcement video Monday.

“My time in the Pennsylvania legislature has taught me a lot about not only how Pennsylvania government works, but a lot about how it doesn’t. It’s taught me a lot about how to work with people who don’t always agree with me.”

Simms said that he believes it is time “for me to take what I’ve learned in the House and to be able to bring that leadership to the direct service of the Governor.”

“We need adults in the room and I want to bring bold, visionary leadership based on lived experiences and shared values to the Commonwealth,” he added.

Sims, who describes himself as an “LGBTQ activist” and a “civil rights advocate,” made headlines in the spring of 2019 over his confrontations with pro-life protesters demonstrating outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Philadelphia. 

In a video posted to his Twitter account, Sims filmed himself outside the clinic, calling the pro-life protesters “a bunch of pseudo-Christian protestors who have been out here shaming young girls for being here.”

The state representative offered $100 to “anybody who will identify any of these three,” as the video panned to show a woman and two teenage girls. 

After the woman, Ashley Garecht, told Sims that “we’re actually here just praying for the babies,” he complained that “a bunch of white people [were] standing out in front of a Planned Parenthood, shaming people.” He argued that “there’s nothing Christian at all about what you’re doing.”

As he continued to assert that there was “nothing Christian or loving or godly about what you’re doing,” he turned his attention to another protester, remarking that “it would be easier if you just give me your name and your address.”

On May 2, 2019, Sims sent out a tweet criticizing pro-life protesters demonstrating outside Planned Parenthood clinics.

“Push back against Planned Parenthood protestors, PLEASE! They’re racist, classist bigots who NEED & DESERVE our righteous opposition. Push back please!”

In a video accompanying the tweet, which has since been deleted, Sims went on a tirade against an elderly pro-life protester.“Shame on you, ma’am, for standing out here thinking you know what’s right for other people’s bodies. … An old white lady telling people what to do with their bodies? Shame on you … This is disgusting,” he said. 

“If you’re a white person like I am, we have a lot of catching up to do, we have a lot to apologize for, and I’m going to start by apologizing for this woman. Shame on you. What you’re doing here is disgusting. … Don’t convince yourself that what you’re doing isn’t extremely racist.”

In a May 7 tweet, Sims apologized for his behavior, stressing that “two wrongs don’t make a right.” He vowed to “do better, for the women of Pennsylvania.” 

In a subsequent apology, issued in October 2019, he wrote a letter to Garecht and her daughters.

“I regret the harm that I caused and I have learned a great deal from this,” he wrote. “I can only ask for your forgiveness and I wish you all the best in the future.”

Joe Garecht, Ashley Garecht's husband, told the Washington Examiner at the time that the family had forgiven him. 

On May 10, shortly after Sims posted his first apology video, pro-life activists gathered in front of the Philadelphia Planned Parenthood, where the confrontations took place for a “Pro-Life Rally Against Bullying.” 

Lila Rose, the founder and president of the pro-life group Live Action, served as moderator.

Other speakers included blogger Matt Walsh and activist Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood employee. 

Reacting to the news that Sims is running for lieutenant governor, Rose took to Twitter to remind her followers of Sims’ actions. 

“In 2019, PA State Rep @BrianSimsPA offered his followers $100 if they were able to identify three TEEN girls he was filming & harassing as they quietly prayed outside Planned Parenthood,” Rose tweeted. 

Her tweet was accompanied by the hashtag #ResignBrianSims. 

Should Sims win the Democratic primary for the lieutenant gubernatorial election, he will run on the same ticket as the Democratic nominee for governor. 

Incumbent Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, is term-limited and cannot run for a third term in office. The next Pennsylvania gubernatorial election will occur on Nov. 8, 2022, occurring simultaneously with the 2022 midterm election.

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