Sixteen female state representatives have hand-delivered a letter to Speaker of the House of Representatives Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia/Delaware) renewing the call for the resignation of Rep. Mike Zabel (D-Delaware).
Zabel, who has been accused of sexual harassment by a union lobbyist, announced Friday that he did not intend to resign his position. Rather, he is opting to step away from some of his duties as he seeks treatment of an unspecified nature.
In reaction to Zabel’s announcement, the representatives, led by Rep. Kristin Marcell (R-Bucks), stated that “It is important for us to lead this charge for accountability and speak up with one voice to say that the only acceptable remedy is Rep. Zabel’s immediate resignation from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
“Knowing Rep. Zabel will not be serving in the halls of the Capitol is the only way women who have had to deal with the grotesque and repeated conduct from this serial harasser will be able to feel safe,” the letter said.
“Women have spent generations breaking down barriers to hold positions of public trust and confidence, but the disgusting unwanted sexual advances by people like Rep. Zabel have continuously held women back or slowed the progress they have made. Too often, the behavior of such men and the silent complicity of others has, sadly, prevented others from even believing the truth. No one – man or woman, Democrat or Republican – should stand for this kind of behavior in 2023.”
Speaking for the signatories that included Jill Cooper (R-Westmoreland), Wendy Fink (R-York), Dawn Keefer (R-York/Cumberland), Milou Mackenzie (R-Northampton/Lehigh/Montgomery), Natalie Mihalek (R-Allegheny/Washington), Donna Schueren (R-Montgomery), K.C. Tomlinson (R-Bucks), Stephanie Borowicz (R-Clinton/Centre), Sheryl Delozier (R-Cumberland), Ann Flood (R-Northampton), Shelby Labs (R-Bucks), Abby Major (R-Armstrong/Butler/Indiana), Tina Pickett (R-Bradford/Sullivan/Susquehanna), Joanne Stehr (R-Northumberland), and Martina White (R-Philadelphia), Marcell noted the following:
“What makes this situation even more intolerable is that House Democratic leadership, which has at times consisted of a number of different women, covered up these actions and remained silent on them until Rep. Zabel was finally caught. The timeline of how his identity was kept quiet – despite his identity being reported as ‘an open secret’ by the news media in the weeks preceding– is there for everyone to see,” she said.
“The speaker’s call for a vote to shut down the mention of Rep. Zabel’s name during the House rules vote is there for anyone to see. How can we allow Rep. Zabel to continue to hold the title and position of trust he abused – especially when he has yet to deny any of the accusations made against him? How can any party prioritize its political power and voting margin over women’s safety?”
It is not just GOP women that continue to call for further action against Zabel.
“The sexual harassment women face in the workplace and in the Capitol is rampant,” said Democratic freshman La’Tisha Mayes (D-Allegheny). “Thank you Andi Perez for bravely sharing your story and being a catalyst for systemic change in Harrisburg. I believe and stand with survivors. Rep. Zabel must resign.”
And female voices have not been the only one heard.
“Harassment shouldn’t be tolerated, regardless of your political party,” said Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia). “Rep. Mike Zabel must resign, full stop.”
“As disturbing allegations continue to mount against Representative Zabel, it’s clear that Speaker McClinton and Democratic leadership will not address these allegations in an effort to protect their razor-thin majority,” said RSLC Deputy Communications Director Mason Di Palma. “Representative Zabel is no longer able to serve the people of his district effectively and should resign immediately. Democrats’ silence on this matter shows that they are only concerned with holding onto power and not standing by victims of sexual abuse.”
updated to include Major as a signatory.