Pennsylvania Dem Rep Resigns After Alarming Sexual Harassment Allegations from Three Women
A Democratic member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives is stepping down after three women accused him of touching them inappropriately.
State Rep. Mike Zabel, who represents Delaware County, just southwest of Philadelphia, announced his resignation will be effective Thursday, according to Spotlight PA. The decision was made after accusations of sexual misconduct piled up.
Zabel was first accused of inappropriately touching his former campaign manager, which she said occurred more than four years ago.
The Washington Post reported Colleen Kennedy accused the Democratic legislator of touching her back at a campaign function and during other public events.
In a March 1 essay published on Medium, she said Zabel had “sexually harassed her and would lash out at her as she worked on his 2018 campaign.”
“On one occasion while at a fundraiser hosted by members of Mike’s wife’s family, Mike put his hands on my back, grabbing me and moving his hand upward and downward in the way people who are in a romantic relationship would, until I leaned away as inconspicuously as possible,” Kennedy recounted.
She alleged that Zabel quickly looked at her in a way she perceived to be “recognition of a clumsy mistake — a man who thought he was holding onto his wife standing a few feet away, but who grabbed the wrong person accidentally.”
Kennedy said the Democrat apologized.
“As I reflected upon that incident in the hours and days after, I considered alcohol to be a prominent character in that story,” she wrote.
Kennedy said Zabel’s alleged alcohol abuse created other issues she felt she needed to explain.
She concluded he needed to resign from his seat.
The Associated Press reported lobbyist Andi Perez accused the lawmaker of caressing her leg as the two had a discussion outside of the state Capitol in Harrisburg.
Perez said when she made an attempt to put distance between her and Zabel, he pursued her further.
I want to thank the brave women who stood up and all the allies who stood with us. We don’t have to tolerate harassment. Together we can win. Happy International Women’s Day. https://t.co/xNmX4ECarm
— Andi Perez (@AndiPerez) March 8, 2023
Finally, one of Zabel’s state House colleagues shared an account of alleged inappropriate touching she said happened while he was drinking wine.
Rep. Abby Major, a Republican from Armstrong County, said Zabel touched her at a “local establishment” in Harrisburg in November, the AP reported.
“He was clearly intoxicated. His lips and teeth were stained red from wine,” Major said at a news conference.
She said Zabel paid her a compliment, put his arm around her and touched her back.
“He then asked me if I wanted to get out of here and go upstairs,” the GOP lawmaker said.
Major added Zabel was “being a creep” and said other women had similar stories but did not want to come forward.
She posted a telling tweet Wednesday after he announced he would be stepping down.
— Abby Major (@AbbyMajor60) March 8, 2023
In another tweet Saturday, Major said, “We should not need a dozen lawyers to go back and forth to determine if being sexually harassed or assaulted by a legislator (anytime, anywhere) is an Ethics violation!”
We should not need a dozen lawyers to go back and forth to determine if being sexually harassed or assaulted by a legislator (anytime, anywhere) is an Ethics violation! https://t.co/9qNuWw8ZCr
— Abby Major (@AbbyMajor60) March 11, 2023
Zabel told Pennsylvania House Speaker Joanna McClinton, a fellow Democrat, his resignation would be effective Thursday.
In an interview with the AP, the Democrat said the accusations of sexual misconduct had taken a “toll” on his family.
“Allegations of this nature are impossible to litigate in a public forum,” he said. “It was always my intention to go through the Ethics Committee process and defend myself there. At this point, though, I am unwilling to put my loved ones through any more of this.”
Zabel previously said he had made some decisions he regrets. He attributed those to his suffering from an “illness.”
“My illness has caused some behavior that I regret, and I agree that additional intervention is necessary for me to fully recover,” he said.
“I am in the process of securing additional intensive treatment, beyond the outpatient treatment I have been receiving and am currently working with my health care providers and my family to identify an appropriate inpatient program which I will be entering as soon as possible,” Zabel said.
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