inside sources print logo
Get up to date Delaware Valley news in your inbox

Days Before Special Election, Race for New Delco State Rep Heats Up

By the time the special election determining which party controls the state House is held on May 16, Democrats will have spent upwards of $1 million to support Heather Boyd.

The Republicans will have spent a fraction of that, around $150,000, to try to elect Katie Ford. The two women, and Libertarian Alfe Goodwin, are vying to replace former state Rep. Mike Zabel, who resigned after three women came forward with sexual harassment allegations.

“I’ve been in politics since I was 13,” said former Upper Darby Mayor Tom Micozzie, whose father had held that seat for 38 years. “People don’t usually spend money if they think they’re winning.”

Disgraced former state Rep. Margot Davidson was spotted knocking on doors for Boyd, two sources told DVJournal.

The Democrats control the House 101 to 100, so a lot is on the line. And even with a 22,000 to 14,000 voter advantage they are pulling out all the stops. (Another 8,000 are unaffiliated.)

“The Democrats’ investment in this race isn’t that surprising given its crucial role and some concern about the less predictable nature of special elections,” said Christopher Borick, a political science professor and director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion.  “It would be a monumental blow to the party to lose this race and their majority in the House.”

Ford, a former Army medic who is now a special education instructor, and Boyd, a party insider who is chair of the Upper Dublin Democratic Committee and worked for Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon before launching her run in March, debated once.  The debate did not garner much news coverage, although the DVJournal reported on it, so it is unclear how many voters watched.

Although Ford insisted during the debate that she is pro-choice and will not vote to change Pennsylvania’s law or for a constitutional amendment regarding abortion, she is being hit with commercials that say that she will do just that, including one from Gov. Josh Shapiro, a Democrat.

Asked about this, his spokesman said that Shapiro answered this question at an event Monday, saying he believes Ford changed her position recently and will always protect a woman’s right to choose.

Borick said, “We see continued evidence that the issue of reproductive rights is a significant boost for Democratic candidates, and they certainly think highlighting the topic in a southeast Pennsylvania race can drive turnout.”

State Republican Party Chairman Lawrence Tabas defended Ford.

“Democrat politician Heather Boyd and Harrisburg Democrats are trying to trick voters into believing 163rd Special Election is about women’s rights, but it’s a smokescreen,” said Tabas.

“Heather Boyd declined to defend women’s rights when she helped cover up sexual harassment and voted to defund the police. Katie Ford will protect women’s rights by keeping our streets safe and rejecting ‘good old boy’ politics.”

Jake Zane, executive director of the Delaware County Republicans, said, “Outside dark money has been pouring in on their side. Katie has done a very good job, an outstanding job, raising money from grassroots individuals. And I really hope the voters of the 163rd District will see past all the special interest groups that have spent $1 million lying about Katie, misrepresenting her, who she is as a person and her record. Katie is a working mom, a family woman, and the wife of a police officer. She’s focused on going to Harrisburg and working on the issues that  actually matter to people: safe streets, crime, mental health, making sure our schools are funded in a fair and equitable way while, at the same time, senior citizens aren’t taxed out of their homes by exorbitant property taxes.”

Colleen Guiney, chair of the Delaware County Democrats, said, “Anyone making accusations of ‘dark money’ use don’t understand what ‘dark money’ is — money raised by organizations such as the Commonwealth Foundation, where their donors are hidden. The money raised by Heather is all 100 percent in the light, being totally reported.”

She accused the Ford campaign of mistreating the first victim to come forward and accuse Zabel, who told Boyd in 2021 what had occurred. That victim is now supporting Boyd, Guiney noted.

Micozzie said people in Upper Darby are very unhappy with Mayor Barbarann Keffer, who succeeded him in the office and is not running again after a DUI arrest.  And that unhappiness must be tarnishing Boyd, who, as the chair of the local Democratic party, has responsibility for those she helped elect, he said.

Micozzie is the former leader of the Upper Darby Republicans, so if poor management of the township had happened under his watch, he would have been held accountable, he said.

“Now you want to be a state rep,” Micozzie said of Boyd. “I mean, you have to take ownership over something in life, right? I think the Democrats are underestimating the impact people are feeling in the greatest part of the (167th) district.”

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or

PA Senate Makes National Dems’ 2024 Target List

National Democrats are vowing to advance party control throughout the U.S. in 2024 by targeting what they say are “vulnerable GOP chambers” in state legislatures around the country. On their list:

Pennsylvania’s Senate.

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee said in a recent statement that it plans to “harness [the] momentum” of the party’s 2022 victories and “mount competitive challenges in vulnerable GOP chambers that we have an opportunity to take back.”

The DLCC vowed in its statement to both protect its recently won majority in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and flip control of the Pennsylvania Senate from the GOP.

Trevor Southerland, the executive director of the Pennsylvania House Democratic Campaign Committee, admitted the Democratic Party’s 2022 results in the state House “surprised some people.” In that election, Democrats gained control of the lower chamber for the first time in 12 years.

“I think everybody thought we would pick up seats,” Southerland said. “I’m not sure too many people thought we would win the majority.”

“There’s a big play on making sure we protect and potentially expand the majority by taking a few more seats,” he continued, adding the campaign committee helps train candidates on messaging and provides them with staffers to help with mailing campaigns and television spots.

Republicans have maintained strong majorities in the Pennsylvania legislature over the past few decades. Since 1992 the GOP has only lost control of the Senate for one year. Democrats have controlled the House for just eight of those years. The GOP has enjoyed a trifecta—control of the House, Senate, and governor’s office—in 12 of those years.

The Democratic Party has controlled the governor’s office in the state since 2015, the longest stretch of party control for the past 30 years.

Whether or not that signals a possible shift in state politics is uncertain. Charlie Gerow, CEO of Quantum Communications and a GOP candidate for governor in 2022, said that “given the mood of the electorate,” Democrats “have a very steep hill to climb.”

“Joe Biden is unpopular even among Democrats in Pennsylvania,” Gerow said. “The Republicans will have at the top of the ticket some strong candidates as opposed to the weak ones in 2022.”

“The economy here is not working for most people,” he went on. “It’s always the economy. I think Democrats probably hit their high water mark last year and will see the tide recede a little bit in 2024.

“Joe Biden is unpopular even among Democrats in Pennsylvania,” he continued. “The Republicans will have at the top of the ticket some strong candidates as opposed to the weak ones in 2022.”

Pennsylvania statute dictates all seats in the state House are up for re-election every two years, while senators face staggered four-year terms. Most seats in both chambers break easily for one party or another. In 2022, Ballotpedia identified just 16 percent of House districts as “battleground” races. The election tracker designated just 18 percent of state Senate races last year as contested.

One Republican strategist who spoke on background pointed to the upcoming race in Pennsylvania’s 163rd House District as a potentially close contest, though he speculated Democrats would ultimately prevail. That seat was vacated by Democratic Rep. Mike Zabel last month amid allegations of sexual harassment and assault.

The strategist said that though Democrats will likely hold onto the seat, Republicans have put up a strong candidate—Army veteran Katie Ford—and that they may have a fighting chance at flipping it. “If they do, it’s a harbinger of things to come,” he said.

And it’s not just the state legislature. On Monday the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released its list of targeted GOP seats to flip, and on the list is Bucks County’s U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick. It’s not the first time for the swing-district Republican.

Asked about their effort, National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Chris Gustafson said, “House Democrats are grasping for seats as they continue to support extreme policies that are completely out of touch. Brian Fitzpatrick has consistently delivered results for Pennsylvania families and they are excited to re-elect him next fall.”

Southerland believes Democrats can turn the entire state government blue. “There’s definitely room for us to grow a little bit,” he said.

“In the last 10 years, state legislative politics have really taken off, and Democrats have been a little behind Republicans as far as getting national groups on board,” he said. “We’re glad to be catching up.”

Gerow offered a counterpoint. With American politics so volatile, there’s “a chance” Democrats could lose control of the state House just two years after they secured it.

“You’re going to see some interesting races along the way,” he said.

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or

Making the Cut: More PA GOP Women Running for Office

For many years, Springfield resident Nichole Missino was a nonpolitical person who registered as an independent and only voted in presidential election years.

“I thought my vote didn’t matter,” she said.

The 2020 pandemic changed that.

Missino owns Giovanni’s Media Barber Shop, which she named for her son, now 13.

“In the beginning of the pandemic, we had to shut down,” Missino said. She wanted to access relief funding so that the people who worked at the barber shop, who are independent contractors, could pay their bills.

She asked state Rep. Jennifer O’Mara (D-Springfield) for help but got nowhere.

“The state did not open that portal until the end of April,” said Missino, so her workers had no income starting when the Wolf administration ordered her to shut down in March.

“There was no real help from my Democratic legislator,” she said.

“I felt I could do better than she does,” said Missino, now a Republican and running against O’Mara. “I just want to help people.”

Jessica Florio

Missino is one of many Republican women running for office in 2022. Some 45 percent of the Pennsylvania Republican state Senate candidates are women, and 30 percent of the GOP House candidates are women.

“The state legislative candidates nominated by Pennsylvania Republicans are a true testament to the Republican Party’s commitment to electing more women leaders to public office who reflect their respected communities,” said RSLC Deputy Communications Director Mason DiPalma. “These candidates will act as a strong line of defense against Joe Biden’s destructive agenda. The only way to defend and expand our majorities is to elect diverse candidates like these so we can get our country back on track. We are excited and confident that these candidates will be successful in pushing back against Pennsylvania Democrats in Harrisburg.”

Jessica Florio is running for the state Senate, challenging Sen. Katie Muth (D-Berks/Chester/Montgomery).

“As a special education teacher, Honey Brook Borough Council president, volunteer, and leader in my community, I have seen the good that can be accomplished when we work together and put aside the political differences that separate us,” said Florio. “I decided to run for state Senate because too many people in Harrisburg, including my opponent, choose politics over doing what is right for their constituents. It is partisan and divisive when she should be finding common ground.

“Currently, the residents of the 44th District are facing the very same issues that have deeply concerned persons throughout the country: wallet-crushing inflation, a stagnating economy, rising crime, and an education system that could, and should, be doing more for our children.

“I believe in the promise of America, and I believe Pennsylvania is a great state in which to live, work and raise a family,” said Florio. “The solutions to these issues won’t be found in partisan bickering but will be found through a leader who carefully listens to and works with those on both sides of the aisle to develop solutions that address the problems we all face.

“As state Senator, I will prioritize the needs of families, small businesses, and workers trying to make ends meet and will support legislation that will improve the lives of all Pennsylvanians,” she said.

Rep. Tracy Pennycuick (R-Harleysville) is another woman with her eye on a state Senate seat. Sen. Bob Mensch (R-Bucks/Berks/Montgomery) is retiring and endorsed Pennycuick.

Rep. Tracy Pennycuick

She said that she loves being in the legislature and serving her constituents. An Army combat veteran, she initially enlisted as a medic. Pennycuick earned a degree in business and a commission in the U.S. Army. She served as a Blackhawk pilot, including three combat tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Desert Storm, where she was awarded the bronze star.

Pennycuick retired as a lieutenant colonel after 26 years of service. She was a platoon leader, operations officer, company commander, aviation group safety officer, brigade human resources officer, executive officer, Department of Defense efficiency expert, and foreign liaison to the UK Ministry of Defence.

Pennycuick and her husband, Rick, who also served in the armed forces, settled in Harleysville when he was in command of the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) Philadelphia. The couple has four grown children, three serving in the military, and two grandchildren.

In the House, she has focused on education, as well as “providing our frontline heroes, families, seniors, workers, and small businesses with the support they need through the pandemic while also pushing forward important legislation that protects some of our most vulnerable populations and vital government reform.”

Missino is also a fighter.

In early May, she was going to reopen her barber shop but received threats from the police and state. So she held a rally outside it to call on the state to allow small businesses to reopen.

She put up Plexiglas dividers, stocked up on personal protective equipment (PPE), and decided to reopen her shop on May 20. The Media police chief told her he would pull her occupancy permit. She did anyway, and when a state inspector came to check out Giovanni’s, he found that she had gone over and above the state rules.

“I’ve never been on unemployment,” she said. “I’ve always been a worker.”

Missino was also active in the school district, attending board meetings to oppose requiring students to wear masks. She spoke at school board meetings and ran for the school board in Springfield as a write-in candidate.

“I’ve gotten help from the Republican Party,” she said about her run for state representative.

DiPalma said, “The diverse slate of state legislative candidates nominated by Republicans in Pennsylvania embodies the mission of the RSLC’s Right Leaders Network. Through the RSLC’s Right Women Right Now and Future Majority Project initiatives, the committee over the past decade has recruited, trained, supported, and elected thousands of diverse state Republicans across the country, many of whom went on to serve in statewide and federal offices.”

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or

CUTLER/BENNINGHOFF/GROVE: A Fair Congressional Map Awaits Final Approval

The citizen-drawn congressional redistricting map received a resounding endorsement when Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia McCullough recommended to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that it be used in the upcoming election.

We couldn’t agree more with Judge McCullough’s decision on the map, introduced as House Bill 2146, and strongly urge the state’s highest court to follow her recommendation.

In her 228-page report, which critiqued all map submissions, McCullough wrote that the citizens’ map “meets all of the traditional criteria of the Free and Equal Elections Clause, and does so in respects even noted by the governor’s expert, as well as the other considerations noted by the courts, it compares favorably to all of the other maps submitted herein, including the 2018 redistricting map, it was drawn by a non-partisan good government citizen, subjected to the scrutiny of the people and duly amended, it creates a Democratic leaning map which underscores its partisan fairness and, otherwise, is a reflection of the ‘policies and preferences of the state, as expressed in statutory and constitutional provisions or in the reapportionment plans proposed by the state legislature.’”

The submissions included maps from the governor and House Democrats, neither of whom attempted to move their maps through the proper channels of the legislative process.

The history of the citizen-drawn map goes back to July 2021 when the House State Government Committee kicked off the most transparent, citizen-driven congressional redistricting process in the history of our Commonwealth with the first in a long series of hearings. Over the next few months, the committee went to the people all over the state to receive their input on congressional districts. It also opened the actual map-making to citizens and, in the end, selected a map drawn by Lehigh Valley resident Amanda Holt.

Unfortunately, Gov. Tom Wolf swiftly vetoed the map, even though he declined to take part in the Legislative-led redistricting process, after it was passed through the General Assembly.

We weren’t the only people to be left scratching our heads on why the governor vetoed the map. McCullough was also apparently puzzled, writing in her report “although Gov. Wolf vetoed House Bill 2146 and that bill never obtained the official status of a duly enacted statute, neither Wolf nor any other party herein has advanced any cognizable legal objection to the constitutionality of the congressional districts contained therein.”

The State Supreme Court has an opportunity to right the governor’s wrong and we truly hope the justices seize the opportunity.

Follow us on social media: Twitter: @DV_Journal or