A day of Pennsylvania firsts on the last day of Black History Month.
Rep. Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia/Delaware) was elected Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Tuesday following the resignation of Rep. Mark Rozzi (D-Berks) from the position.
McClinton becomes the first woman and second Black to ascend to the Speakership.
She was elected by a 102-99 vote over Republican Carl Metzgar (R-Somerset/Bedford).
McClinton, 40, grew up and still lives in Cobbs Creek in southwest Philadelphia and attended La Salle University and Villanova Law School. She has served in Harrisburg since 2015 and previously has worked as a public defender and a state Senate attorney.
For the first time in Commonwealth history, both chambers of the General Assembly are headed by Blacks, as Austin Davis, the state’s lieutenant governor, also serves as president of the state Senate. In addition, when Davis is not present, State Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) heads the chamber as President Pro Tempore, giving Pennsylvania two women at the helm.
“I am so very grateful for all who’ve come before me and all who have fought, and sacrificed and persevered so that one day this opportunity could come as something that’s actually possible,” said McClinton during her remarks. “From our great Speaker – K. Leroy Irvis – to the first Black woman ever elected to House leadership – Rosita C. Youngblood – there has been great sacrifice for these types of opportunities to arrive and I am wise enough to understand it’s only on their shoulders that I’m standing here today.
“I’m grateful to all of you who decided to put Pennsylvania above of our party, all of you who chose courage over cynicism, all of you who’ve instilled your confidence in me to govern this chamber with fairness, with conviction, with diplomacy.
“For those who might be disappointed or frustrated or even skeptical, I’ll ask you what I asked my neighbors eight summers ago. Give me a chance.”
“Rather than seeing our slim margin in this chamber as an obstacle, we can reframe it as an opportunity. The majority will no longer silence the minority party or disrespect anyone’s role as a legislator.”
“Today’s significance is not lost on me,” she concluded. “I remember starting my application for law school saying statistically doomed for failure, because at that time In 2002, there were very few folks taking the LSAT’s and applying to law school. I never knew if any dream I had as a child would ever be achieved.
“From second grade, I wanted to be a lawyer, a preacher, an actress and a hairdresser. I had already been blessed by the grace of God to overcome the statistic from my life. I recognize there have been so many women who’ve come before me in this chamber and all across Pennsylvania that have also been firsts.
“We’re going to stand up against every form of discrimination. We’re going to have rules that protect women, people of color, LGBTQIA+, because this is Pennsylvania where democracy was born. It shouldn’t matter who you love. It shouldn’t matter whether you pray. And it shouldn’t matter how you were born and the color of your skin. So while we didn’t have opportunities to pass those types of rules before …
“Today’s a fresh start. It’s a new day.”
Gov. Josh Shapiro congratulated McClinton in a tweet.
‘History made. Congratulations to my friend and Pennsylvania’s first Black female Speaker of the House, @RepMcClinton. Let’s get to work, Madam Speaker.”
Republican House Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) shared his thoughts on McClinton’s election.
“As a former Speaker of the House, I offer my congratulations to Speaker McClinton and wish her well on this tremendous responsibility” Cutler said in a statement.
“After several months of gridlock and a state House of Representatives that has not been working for the people, we are in dire need of a reset.
“I hope my colleagues on the other side of the aisle join us in working to move ahead, open the House, and adopt operating rules for the House that we hope will be reflective of the priorities contained in the already-public House Republican rules draft, especially those pertaining to transparency and sexual harassment protections.”
I think y’all need to fix your editorial process. Referring to the Speaker as the “second Black” or both chambers being headed by “Blacks”. Really y’all? It’s not the 60s.
It took awhile and a detour, but she eventually got there. Democracy prevailed, even in the PA House. Hooray.