BRIAN SIMS grabs a spot at Café Twelve on Sunday afternoon and downs a double shot of espresso in two hearty sips. Later, he'll knock out 10 miles on a treadmill - on reconstructed knees.
"I'm not a coffee drinker," he says, then clarifies: "I need to be caffeinated from time to time. I feel this is very effective."
Sims aims to be equally effective in Harrisburg starting Tuesday, when he takes his seat in the House of Representatives after defeating longtime state Rep. Babette Josephs in April's Democratic primary.
It won't be easy. Republicans control both chambers of the General Assembly and the governor's mansion.
But Sims is undeterred, and that's not just the espresso talking. His iPhone case has J. Howard Miller's World War II-era "We Can Do It!" poster - the one with Rosie the Riveter flexing her bicep.
"I'm very much, I think, a different breed," Sims says, over M.I.A.'s 2009 hit "Paper Planes" playing inside the café, on 12th Street at St. James.
He said his calling card is his political independence, not just that he's the first openly gay person elected to the state Legislature. Despite the GOP's current dominance, Sims is eager to represent Philly's progressive, civic-minded professional class.
"We've been everyone's deputy, everyone's second-in-command," Sims says. "All of a sudden, there are a lot of opportunities here for people that are 25, 35, and 45 with a lot of talent and experience."
Sims, 34, plans to split time between the "Gayborhood" in Washington Square West and a large house he's renting in Harrisburg.
Many chiefs of staff work from their bosses' district offices, but Sims is offering his spare rooms to any who need to crash in the capital - assuming they don't mind Hannegan, his 180-pound Newfoundland.
"The more of us that are there, the better," Sims says, referring to lawmakers and their staff. "That's the Democrat in me."
- William Bender