Pennsylvania House Democrat Mike Zabel announced Wednesday that he will be stepping down from his seat, following public accusations of sexual harassment from a fellow lawmaker, a lobbyist and his own former campaign manager.
In a three-sentence letter sent to state 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 Andi Perez publicly accused the lawmaker of sexually harassing her, and the same day state Rep. Abby Major (R) alleged that during an event marking International Women’s Day Zabel touched her back and followed her to her car.
His decision to step down 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 couldn’t file a complaint because she is not an employee of the House, according to SpotlightPA, an independent newsroom supported by the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Zabel, who days ago declined to resign despite requests 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 to 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 the leadership.
“Rep. Zabel has chosen to do what is best for his family, the people he represents, and the state House of Representatives,” the statement read. “The House Democratic Caucus reaffirms its commitment to a safe work environment that encourages people to come forward to have their concerns addressed 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 way, “grabbing me and moving his hand upward and downward in the way people who are in a romantic relationship would.”
The incident allegedly happened at a fundraising event hosted by members of Zabel’s wife’s family, 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 get away from the situation after another male colleague noticed, Major said.
“I told him that Rep. Zabel had propositioned me and was being a creep,” Major said.
Later that night, Zabel allegedly followed her to her car when she tried to leave the bar. It wasn’t until Major hid in a restroom and asked another colleague to accompany her to her car that she was able to leave, Major said.
Last week, Perez, a lobbyist for Service Employees International Union 32BJ, went public with her own allegations, accusing Zabel of sexually harassing her in September 2019. In an interview with SpotlightPA, Perez said that Zabel harassed her while discussing a bill outside of the Statehouse.
Zabel “decided to caress my leg while I was wearing a skirt all the while telling me he was impressed by my passion and knowledge of the issues we were discussing,” Perez told SpotlightPA. “I moved away from him hoping he would stop — he did not.”