Democrats Maintain Narrow Majority in Pennsylvania House Following Special Election
HARRISBURG, Pa. – In a closely contested special election, Democrats managed to secure their slender majority in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. The victory ensures their continued influence over crucial issues such as abortion, gun rights, and election law legislation within the chamber.
Heather Boyd emerged as the winner in the race for a seat representing the Philadelphia suburbs in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, defeating Republican candidate Katie Ford. Boyd’s victory comes after the resignation of Democratic Representative Mike Zabel, who stepped down in March following allegations of sexual harassment made by a lobbyist.
With Boyd’s win, Democrats now hold 102 seats, the minimum required to dictate the legislative agenda in the 203-member House. Conversely, the state Senate remains under Republican control.
The Democrats’ triumph in the Delaware County district has significant implications for first-term Democratic Governor Josh Shapiro. Having at least one chamber aligned with his policy objectives will undoubtedly aid his agenda during the final month of budget negotiations. Additionally, this outcome could have implications for a proposed constitutional amendment seeking to restrict abortion rights. Legislative Republicans are just one House floor vote away from presenting the amendment to voters as a referendum.
Boyd boasts prior experience as a congressional and state legislative aide. Although her district was previously Republican-leaning, recent elections have shown solid margins in favor of Democratic candidates.
Reflecting the importance of the election, President Joe Biden publicly endorsed Boyd, highlighting her track record as an experienced public servant committed to protecting women’s right to make their own healthcare decisions. Biden also expressed confidence in Boyd’s commitment to enacting common-sense gun safety laws and expanding access to voting rights.
During the campaign, Boyd emphasized the need to safeguard abortion rights, setting herself apart from Ford, who personally opposes abortion but pledged to preserve existing state law. Republicans had hoped to regain the majority to advance a proposed constitutional amendment clarifying that the Pennsylvania Constitution does not guarantee any rights related to abortion or the public funding of abortions.
In a televised debate, Ford criticized Boyd, a prominent Democratic Party figure in Delaware County, for not taking more decisive action when she became aware of the allegations against Zabel. Ford argued that it was imperative to address such claims promptly rather than allowing them to be dismissed. Boyd responded by clarifying that she neither endorsed nor supported Zabel upon learning about the lobbyist’s account. She claimed to have made unsuccessful attempts to find an alternative candidate to run against Zabel.
Entering the 2022 election, Republicans held a 113-90 advantage in the state House. However, Democrats managed to flip a net of 12 seats in November, barely securing a majority after a 12-year Republican reign and installing one of their own as speaker.
In a separate special election held on the same day, Republican candidate Michael Stender retained the central Pennsylvania seat for his party. Stender, who serves on the Shikellamy school board and has a background as a firefighter and former EMT, received the endorsement of former Representative Lynda Schlegel Culver, the Republican incumbent who won a state Senate special election earlier this year. Stender defeated Democrat Trevor Finn, a commissioner from Montour County. The district also encompasses part of Northumberland County.