Pennsylvania Democrats must win a May 16 special election in the Philadelphia suburbs in order to preserve their one-seat majority in the state House, and they’re turning to Gov. Josh Shapiro to underscore the stakes. “If Republican extremists win, they’ll take away my veto power by putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot to outlaw abortion, even in cases of rape and incest,” Shapiro says in a new spot from the House Democratic Campaign Committee touting Heather Boyd, a former member of the local school board.
Another ad from the committee says of her GOP rival, “Katie Ford will give MAGA Republicans the majority they desperately want and that’s downright dangerous. They’re counting on Katie Ford to be the deciding vote to make every abortion in Pennsylvania illegal.” Their Republican counterparts don’t appear to have gone on TV, though the House Republican Campaign Committee has sent out anti-Boyd literature masquerading as a newspaper.
The 163rd House District in Delaware County became vacant in March when Democrat Mike Zabel resigned after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment, and Ford and her allies are hoping that scandal will give the GOP an opening in a constituency that supported Joe Biden 62-37. The Republican has accused Boyd, who is a local party official, of not taking action after an SEIU lobbyist named Andi Perez told Boyd that Zabel had harassed her back in 2019. But Perez herself praised Boyd in March as someone who “has been a true ally to me because she kept what I told her about my experience of sexual harassment private until I was ready to share my story publicly,” though that hasn’t deterred Republicans from using this line of attack.
A victory for Boyd in next week’s contest, which coincides with the regularly scheduled statewide primary, would confirm Democratic control of the House for the third time in less than seven months. The party took its first majority in a dozen years in November when Democrats won 102 of the chamber's 203 seats, but Republicans temporarily enjoyed a small 101-99 advantage in membership because three Democratic-held seats became vacant. Democrats swept the February special elections for that trio of western Pennsylvania constituencies, and Joanna McClinton became the first Black woman to serve as speaker a short time later after Mark Rozzi, a moderate Democrat who had won the gavel with GOP support the previous month, stepped aside.
Zabel resigned a short time later, but Democrats still maintained a one-seat advantage because Republican Schlegel Culver had left the lower chamber after winning her own January special election to the state Senate. The contest to fill Culver’s old 108th District will also take place next week, but both parties are treating this 65-33 Trump constituency as an easy hold for the GOP.
P.S. The Associated Press notes that four Democratic representatives are on the ballot next week in primaries for local office, so control of the chamber could again be at stake should any of them go on to prevail in November. John Galloway, who is campaigning for a judgeship in Bucks County, represents the most competitive seat of the four, though Biden still took his 140th District 55-44. The president scored just over 60% of the vote in the seats held by Sara Innamorato and Kristine Howard, who are respectively running for Alleghany County executive and a judicial post in Chester County. Biden also won 93% in the Philadelphia seat held by Amen Brown, though polls show the representative with almost no support in the primary for mayor.