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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