Babette Josephs

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Babette Josephs
Member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives
from the 182nd district
In office
January 1, 1985 – November 30, 2012
Preceded by Samuel Rappaport
Succeeded by Brian Sims
Personal details
Born (1940-08-04) August 4, 1940 (age 76)[1]
New York
Nationality American
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Herbert B. Newberg
Residence Philadelphia
Alma mater Queens College (B.A.), Rutgers-Camden School of Law (J.D.)
Profession Attorney
Religion Jewish heritage

Babette Josephs (born August 4, 1940) is a Democratic politician and attorney, and a former member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Josephs was first elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1984 and represented the 182nd Legislative District, which encompasses Center City and South Philadelphia, through November 30, 2012. She served as the Democratic chairwoman of the House State Government Committee from 2001 to 2012. She was the senior woman legislator in the General Assembly and she was the convener of the Women’s Caucus of the General Assembly. In her role as state representative, she was an unabashed champion of progressive causes.

Legislative career[edit]

Throughout her career, Josephs has chaired or been a member of a number of legislative committees.[2]

  • State Government Committee, Democratic Chair (2001–2012)
  • Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, Member (2003–2012)
  • Philadelphia Delegation, Co-Vice Chair
  • Democratic Policy Committee, Member
  • Women of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, Convener
  • Select Committee on Information Technology Member (2008–2012)
  • Advisory Board on Statewide Uniform Registry of Elections (SURE), Member (2001–2002)
  • Joint Select Committee to Examine Election Issues, Member (2001–2002)
  • House Appropriations Committee, Member (1993–2002)
  • Health & Welfare Committee, Subcommittee Chair
  • House Judiciary Committee, Secretary (1989–1990), Member (1987–1994 & 1997–2002)
  • House Health and Human Services Committee, (1985–1992 & 1995–2002)
  • Children and Youth Committee, Member (2001–2002)
  • Intergovernmental Affairs Committee, Member (1999–2000)
  • House Urban Affairs Committee, Member (1997–1998)
  • Game and Fisheries Committee, Member (1989–1990)
  • House Insurance Committee, Member (1985–1996)
  • Professional Licensure Committee, Member (1985–1986)

Civic Involvement[edit]

Before, during, and after her legislative tenure, Josephs has been involved with a number of civic organizations, including the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, where she is a board member.[3] She was the co-founder of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League's Pennsylvania chapter.[4] As of 2015, she continues to cohost "Conversations Across Time," a TV show that depicts challenging discussions with past historical personalities. She is active on the Justice for Nizah Morris Committee. She is active in the Philadelphia 8th Political Ward and serves on the board of the Jewish Social Policy Action Network.[3]

Previous occupations[edit]

Prior to her election to the legislature Josephs was active in law and political organizing.[5]

  • Executive Director of Citizens Coalition for Energy Efficiency 1980–1981
  • Co-founder and Executive Director National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League PA and its foundation, the Clara Bell Duvall Education Fund 1978–1980
  • Private law practice 1977–1979
  • English Teacher in the Philadelphia Public High Schools 1963–1964


Pledge of allegiance[edit]

In October 2001, Josephs was the only House member to vote against a rule requiring students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools.[6] The constitutionality of the law was later challenged, and in 2003, the U.S. District Court struck down the law on constitutional grounds.[7]

2010 primary campaign[edit]

In April 2010, the political campaign of her Democratic primary opponent Gregg Kravitz gave to The Philadelphia Inquirer a tape of Josephs that was made by a Kravitz supporter who attended a Josephs fundraiser. In the tape, Josephs accused Kravitz of lying about his sexual orientation in order to pander to LGBT voters, a reportedly powerful bloc in the district. "I outed him as a straight person," Josephs said during a fund-raiser at the Black Sheep Pub & Restaurant, as some in the audience gasped or laughed, "and now he goes around telling people, quote, 'I swing both ways.' That's quite a respectful way to talk about sexuality. This guy's a gem." Kravitz denied stating that he is gay and asserted that he identifies as bisexual. However, he said he did not recall telling people that he "swings both ways" and that his sexuality was not a qualification for office, "I bring it up only in the context that it's important for the LGBT community to have a seat at the legislative table." He also added that it would be good for socially conservative lawmakers in the capital to work with an openly bisexual colleague. Josephs also called Kravitz a "trust-fund baby" with no discernible job history who was running for the House because he was bored, a charge also denied by Kravitz, who cited his work with a local congressional candidate.[8] Mark Segal, publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News and a supporter of Josephs, said, "We've [the LGBT community] hit a new high point when candidates are accused of pretending to be gay to win a seat. I've been doing this for 40 years, and I never have heard of this kind of charge in any race in the nation. I take that as flattery. It shows how far we've come."[9]

Josephs defeated Kravitz in the primary by 2,000 votes.[10]

2012 defeat and failed 2014 challenge[edit]

In 2012, Josephs was defeated in the Democratic primary by Brian Sims by 226 votes.

In February 2014, Josephs challenged Rep. Brian Sims for the seat. 599 signatures were collected for her for the ballot of the May 20 primary. These petitions were challenged by three democratic voters, including Duncan Black, a well-known political blogger known as Atrios, alleging widespread forgery, among other claims.[11]

On April 3, 2014, a Commonwealth Court judge, finding that Josephs was 4 signatures short of the 300 minimum required signatures, removed her from the ballot. The majority of the removed signatures were disqualified because the man collecting those signatures had provided a former address.[12] In the same election cycle, although in a different jurisdiction, another candidate was permitted to stay on the ballot despite problematic nominating petitions.[13]


  1. ^ Babette's Profile (archive),
  2. ^ Representative Babette Josephs. "Experience as a Legislator". Retrieved 2014-06-12. 
  3. ^ a b Chillin' Wit (June 8, 2015). "Former state rep enjoying the dog days". Daily News. Philadelphia. Retrieved June 8, 2015. 
  4. ^ Representative Babette Josephs. "Civic Involvement". Retrieved 2014-06-12. 
  5. ^ Representative Babette Josephs. "Biography". Retrieved 2014-06-12. 
  6. ^ / The Associated Press. "Pledging to instill patriotism". Archived from the original on 2011-06-13. Retrieved 2010-04-26. 
  7. ^ Ingrid M. Johansen / University of North Carolina School of Law. "State Pledge of Allegiance statute violates the constitutional rights of students, parents, and private schools". Archived from the original on 2012-03-31. Retrieved 2011-09-05. 
  8. ^ The Pennsylvania Progressive
  9. ^ Fitzgerald, Thomas (2010-04-22). "Center City race has candidate 'outed' as straight". Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on 2010-04-26. Retrieved 2017-02-26. 
  10. ^ "PA State House 182 - D Primary". Election Results. Our Campaigns. Retrieved March 2, 2013. 
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ Federal Judge Orders Rep. Conyers Restored to Ballot: Michigan Democrat Had Been Disqualified Over Problematic Nominating Petitions

External links[edit]