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Two Women Vie to Fill Delco Vacancy Left by Zabel Resignation

Democratic state Rep. Mike Zabel was forced to resign his Drexel Hill seat three weeks ago following multiple allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate touching of women. With a special election set for May 16,  two women are now vying to fill that vacancy.

And while both candidates are female, they have very different backgrounds.

Democrats have nominated a political veteran, Upper Darby Democratic Committee Chair Heather Boyd. She formerly worked for Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon and was chief of staff for Delaware County state Rep. Leanne Krueger. Boyd also served on the Upper Darby School Board from 2015-2018.

Republicans are countering with Katie Ford, an Army veteran and special education therapist who has never held elected office or worked in politics.

Boyd had the backing of the Democratic committee, which gave her 91 percent of the vote over two others who applied.

Heather Boyd

“As a former teacher and local mom, I am running to make sure that every person and family in our district gets the resources and representation they deserve,” said Boyd. “I will work tirelessly to make sure residents of the 153rd District have a seat at the table in Harrisburg.”

The state House is closely divided, with Democrats in control at the moment by one vote, so the contest for the 163rd will be a closely watched race.

“The House majority runs through Delaware County in May, and Heather Boyd is the clear and resounding choice of local Democrats,” said Delaware County Democratic Chair Colleen Guiney.

Ford said she has never been involved in politics but decided to run to “make a difference for real people like you by serving communities every day. Service is part of who I am, be it as a trained combat medic in the U.S. Army, a local volunteer, an education advocate, or a special education therapist. Now is the time for regular citizens like myself to once again step forward and put the interests of people before the interests of politicians.”

While the 2023 special elections have been lopsided affairs thus far, Republican strategist Christopher Nicholas said voters should expect a competitive race. “Both House Democrats and Republicans realize this race will decide control of the chamber.”

Not surprisingly, Rep. Scanlon is endorsing her former staffer.

“I have known Heather Boyd for over a decade as a dedicated public servant and effective community organizer. She has been a valuable leader on my congressional team, sharing her passion for issues involving children and families, and helping develop a robust and responsive constituent services program that has assisted tens of thousands of people in our community.”

Rep. Russ Diamond (R-Lebanon) said, “I’ve spoken with Katie, and she is a fantastic candidate for the State House! Her work and dedication to her community speaks for itself. Volunteer. Mom. Veteran. Please tell all your friends, family, and coworkers about Katie Ford.”

Ford brought up the sexual harassment scandal that caused Zabel’s resignation, saying that Boyd, as Upper Darby party chair, knew that he’d harassed his campaign manager.

“They have chosen as my opponent the political boss who enabled Mr. Zabel’s re-election, even though news reports show she knew what was happening. And even as she claims to fight for women. To this day, she still has not denounced what occurred. This is hypocritical and politics at its worst.”

“My opponent is the political boss who put into office local officials whose leadership, if we can call it that, has resulted in issues with (American Rescue Plan) funds, alleged fraud… It’s more of the same. Is that what we want?”

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Republicans Tap Army Vet Katie Ford for House Special Election

Katie Ford, a U.S. Army veteran and special instructor for early intervention working with children and their families ages birth to three, received the Republican nomination in the upcoming special election to fill the vacant seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives 163rd District.

Her priorities include adequate funding for education and for police and police training.

The special election to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Rep. Mike Zabel, a Democrat, following sexual harassment allegations coincides with the May 16 Primary Election. All registered voters, including independents, are eligible to vote.

Ford, a lifelong Upper Darby resident, was trained as a combat medic and served in the Army for eight years. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies from Penn State University, a Master of Education from Arizona State University, and a Foundations of Infant Mental Health Certificate from the University of Pittsburgh.

She currently works as a special needs instructor focusing on providing direct support to children — from birth to three years old — and their families in early intervention. Ford served as the communications coordinator for the last two summers for the Upper Darby Arts and Education Foundation’s Butterfly Buddy Camp, which helps special needs children build social interaction and life skills through music.

Ford also has a long record of volunteerism in the local community. For the past three years, she has been a volunteer coach and team mom for Upper Darby High School’s indoor and outdoor track and field teams and the cross country teams. She also served as cross country and track boosters president since 2018 and chaired the After Prom Committee.

Additionally, she was active at Drexel Hill Middle School, volunteering as a backstage manager and set designer for six years, as home and school board treasurer for five years, and as the Band and Orchestra Parent Board treasurer for five years. At Garrettford Elementary School, Ford founded the running club for more than 100 students and raised money to benefit the Upper Darby Arts and Education Foundation.

“Given my background and experience, one of my top priorities in the Pennsylvania House will be to fight for the increased funding needed to properly educate our children, including those with special needs,” said Ford. “As the spouse of a police officer, public safety, adequate funding, and training for law enforcement will also be a top priority.”

“Given the numerous scandals in our local community related to our elected officials – ranging from a mayor who has mismanaged taxpayer dollars and was arrested to a state representative who resigned following accusations of sexual harassment – I will work to restore integrity in our state and local government,” said Ford, referring to the recent arrest of Upper Darby’s mayor for driving under the influence and the sexual harassment allegations against Zabel.

“We have too many elected officials who are nominated and elected to office because of backroom deals and who they know in political party leadership. We need people who will focus on doing what’s right by the community, not on paying back their political friends and donors with jobs and contracts,” Ford said.

Frank Agovino, chair of the Delaware County Republican Committee, said, “The Delco GOP is proud to endorse Katie Ford for state representative in the 163rd legislative district. As a mom, special needs educator, community volunteer, and former army medic, Katie knows the impact of service. Katie stepped up because she cares about her community and wants to bring integrity and common sense back to Upper Darby Township. Her connection to the schools and community organizations shows how hard she is willing to work to make a difference. Katie’s energy level is unmatched, and everyone that meets her will feel strongly that she is the only choice on May 16.”

The 163rd District includes a section of Upper Darby, Collingdale, Clifton Heights, Aldan, and part of Darby Township.


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BREAKING: Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver Wins 27th Senate District Special Election

From a press release

The Pennsylvania Senate Republican Campaign Committee (PA SRCC) announced Tuesday evening that State Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver has won the 27th District State Senate Special Election by a current 13,795 vote margin.

With her victory, Senator-Elect Schlegel Culver will be the first woman to represent the 27th Senate District in the State Senate. When Schlegel Culver is sworn in there will be nine women serving in the Republican Caucus of the State Senate, a new record.

“Senator-Elect Lynda Schlegel Culver will be a great addition to the Republican caucus,” PA SRCC Cycle chair Sen. Dave Argall stated. “She was a great candidate and ran a strong campaign. Her overwhelming victory shows that Pennsylvanians have confidence that the Republican caucus in the Pennsylvania Senate is working for them to help grow our economy, support our most vulnerable, and be a voice for them in Harrisburg.”

“The PA SRCC is dedicated to helping to protect and grow our new 28 to 22 Republican majority in the Pennsylvania Senate,” Senator Argall continued. “With this victory in the 27th District Special Election we are off to a great start this cycle and will continue to pick-up momentum.”

The 27th District includes parts of Luxerne, Columbia, Montour, Northumberland and Snyder counties and is a Republican-leaning district.  Culver bested Democrat Patricia Lawton.  Former Sen. John Gardner resigned Nov. 30, 2022 to accept a position as counsel to Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward.



A Fighter Runs for State Senate in Philadelphia

When Sam Oropeza was competing in mixed martial arts and professional boxing, he relished the underdog role.

“I always loved being an underdog,” he said, “because it always made me fight with that feeling that I had nothing to lose. And when you have that feeling that you have nothing to lose, I always thought that brought out the best version of myself.”

That tenacity could be an asset as Oropeza, a Republican, seeks election to the Pennsylvania State Senate from the Fifth District, encompassing much of Northeast Philadelphia. He and Democrat Jimmy Dillon will square off in a special election on May 17 to fill the unexpired term of Sen. John Sabatina Jr., who resigned in November after being elected to a judgeship on the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas.

The winner will serve through 2024.

Oropeza lives in the River Wards with his fiancé and two children and works as a real estate salesman. He says his quest to seek public office is fueled by a desire to help city residents upgrade their quality of life. When time permits, he mentors aspiring young fighters.

“I always had aspirations of running,” he said. “Working in the Harrowgate neighborhood in Philadelphia for the past three-and-a-half years is really where I developed a vision for Philadelphia.

“You also see how policies keep people down and keep neighborhoods back. And all that mixed with moving my family here four months before the start of the pandemic and watching the quality of life get destroyed, I would say really was the biggest deciding factor in me running.”

When asked about issues that are most meaningful to Fifth District residents, Oropeza pointed to public safety and education.

“I’d say number one is public safety. Philadelphia is so dangerous right now. There’s no reason why anybody would want to open a business, raise a family, or send their child to a school in Philadelphia. So, public safety, I’d say, is the number one issue.

“Number two is education. We are the fifth-largest city in the United States, and we have the highest poverty rate. And it bothers me when I see kids who are living a life of poverty, and you see the lifestyle that they live, the habits that get reinforced into them. It’s heartbreaking to see children who are going to continue that cycle of poverty.”

Oropeza, who is one of six children, lost his father at age 10. “I grew up without my father and I understand that the habits and the choices that we made and the habits that we have will make a big difference in the outcome of our lives,” he said. “Education is so important to me and our quality of life. You can’t even call 911 anymore. The phone just rings. So, we don’t really get the services for the taxes that we pay.”

Oropeza acknowledges he has an uphill fight to win the election, given the Democrats’ registration advantage. But just like Rocky Balboa, he is not conceding defeat.

Sam Oropeza boxing

“When you look at (the 2021 Philadelphia District Attorney’s race) Peruto versus Krasner, and when you look at Donald Trump versus Joe Biden, and you look at the Fifth Senate District and the way the votes went, it is the only Senate district in the city of Philadelphia where a Republican has a chance to win.

“I have been doing exactly what I should be doing, which is getting out in the community, knocking on as many doors as possible, and my message is very well received. People are fed up. When you see the current state of Philadelphia, and also when you see the current leadership we have in this country. When I say, ‘Hi, My Name is Sam Oropeza, and I’m running for the state Senate, and I’m the Republican candidate,’  you see a sigh of relief in people, and it does give me hope. People are excited. People want to support me.”

DVJournal asked Oropeza if he felt a connection to Trump.

“I’m the youngest of six kids raised by a single mother,” he said, “so I really can’t identify with Donald Trump. But what I can identify with are the people of Philadelphia. I’m somebody who has lived the life that I would say the majority of Philadelphians have lived.

“I earned the hard way, and I earned it through hard work, so I really don’t connect myself with Donald Trump. It doesn’t mean that I don’t like him, and it doesn’t mean that I do like him. It’s just  that my message is for those from that blue-collar, working-class background that we have here in Philadelphia.”

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