NATIONAL NEWS

Democrats keep Pennsylvania House majority, positioning party to prevent limits on abortion rights

May 15, 2023, 10:01 PM | Updated: May 16, 2023, 7:50 pm

Campaign signs for Heather Boyd and Katie Ford are seen, Thursday, May 4, 2023, in Aldan, Pa. The t...

Campaign signs for Heather Boyd and Katie Ford are seen, Thursday, May 4, 2023, in Aldan, Pa. The two are running in a special election in the Philadelphia suburbs that will determine whether Democrats in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives will maintain control of the chamber or if Republicans will reclaim the majority control they held for 12 years until this January. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Democrats maintained their narrow Pennsylvania House majority Tuesday by winning a special election and along with it continued control over how the chamber will handle abortion, gun rights and election law legislation.

Heather Boyd won a seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives representing the Philadelphia suburbs, beating Republican Katie Ford for a vacancy created by the resignation of Democratic Rep. Mike Zabel. Zabel quit the Legislature in March, shortly after a lobbyist accused him of sexually harassing her.

Boyd’s win gives Democrats 102 seats, the minimum needed to control the agenda in the 203-member House. The state Senate has a Republican majority.

The Democrats’ victory in the Delaware County district means first-term Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro will have at least one chamber to aid his agenda going into the final month of budget negotiations. The result could also affect a proposed constitutional amendment limiting abortion rights that legislative Republicans are one House floor vote away from putting before voters as a referendum.

Boyd is a former congressional and state legislative aide. Her district was once Republican but has given solid margins to Democratic candidates in recent elections.

Republicans entered the 2022 election with a 113-90 advantage in the state House, but Democrats flipped a net of 12 seats, barely enough to claim majority status after 12 years and elect one of their own as speaker.

Republican Michael Stender won a special election for a vacant central Pennsylvania seat. Stender, a Shikellamy school board member, firefighter and former EMT, was endorsed by former Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver, the Republican who represented the district before winning a state Senate special election earlier this year. Stender beat Democrat Trevor Finn, a Montour County commissioner. The district also includes part of Northumberland County.

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Associated Press writers Nicholas Riccardi in Denver and Marc Levy in Harrisburg contributed to this report.

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Democrats keep Pennsylvania House majority, positioning party to prevent limits on abortion rights