Pa. lawmaker Mike Zabel resigns following sexual harrasment accusations

Pa. lawmaker Mike Zabel resigns following sexual harrasment accusations

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Pennsylvania House Democrat Mike Zabel announced Wednesday that he will retire from his seat, following public allegations of sexual harassment by a fellow lawmaker, a lobbyist and his former campaign manager.

In a three-sentence letter sent to House Speaker Joanna McClinton (D) and verified by The Washington Post, Zabel said he wants to “focus on my family and my health.” His resignation is effective March 16.

The news comes a week after union lobbyist Andy Perez publicly accused the lawmaker of sexually harassing her, and the same day state Rep. Abby Major (R) alleged that during an International Women’s Day event Zabel touched her back and followed her in her car. .

His decision to resign also comes days after the chamber adopted new rules allowing anyone to file harassment complaints with its ethics committee. The rule change was made after Perez said she was told she could not file a complaint because she is not a House employee, according to SpotlightPA, an independent news outlet supported by the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Zabeli, who days ago refused to resign despite demands from several lawmakers, did not immediately respond to multiple requests for comment from The Post. Zabel, an attorney and former prosecutor, was first elected in 2018 in a district in suburban Philadelphia.

In a statement shared with The Post, House Democratic caucus leaders said Zabel had made the best choice after participating in multiple conversations with leadership.

“Reps. Zabel has chosen to do what is best for his family, the people he represents and the state House of Representatives,” the statement said. “The Democratic Department of the House of Representatives reaffirms its commitment to an environment of job security that encourages people to come forward to address their concerns responsibly and thoroughly.”

The move leaves Pennsylvania Democrats with a one-seat majority in the assembly.

Zabel was also accused of sexual harassment by Colleen Kennedy, his former campaign manager, SpotlightPA reported.

Kennedy published an essay earlier this month in which she wrote that Zabel allegedly put his hands on her back in an unprofessional manner, “grabbing me and moving his hand up and down the way people who are in a romantic relationship”.

The incident allegedly occurred at a fundraising event organized by family members of Zabel’s wife, wrote Kennedy, who said she was concerned about Zabel’s alcohol consumption.

Speaking at a news conference Wednesday, Major accused Zabel of putting his arm around her and touching her back while trying to pay for her tab at a bar in November 2022, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Major said Zabel asked her if she wanted to go upstairs, which she declined. She was able to walk away from the situation after another male colleague spotted her, Major said.

“I told him that Rep. Zabel had proposed to me and was dragging his feet,” Major said.

Later that night, Zabel allegedly followed her in her car when she tried to leave the bar. It wasn’t until Major hid in a bathroom and asked another colleague to accompany her to her car that she was able to leave, Major said.

Last week, Perez, a lobbyist for the Service Employees International Union 32BJ, went public with her allegations, accusing Zabel of sexually harassing her in September 2019. In an interview with SpotlightPA, Perez said Zabel harassed her while debated a bill outside the state House.

Zabel “decided to pet my leg while I was wearing a skirt the entire time telling me he was impressed by my passion and knowledge of the issues we were discussing,” Perez told SpotlightPA. “I walked away from him hoping he would stop – he didn’t.”

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