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McClinton Swearing In Raises GOP Ire

Joanna McClinton, Bryan Cutler

The 2023-24 legislative session in Harrisburg is off to a roaring start.

Earlier Wednesday, Rep. Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia/Delaware) was sworn in by Delaware County Judge Richard H. Lowe as House Majority Leader for the 2023-24 legislative session, becoming the first woman in Pennsylvania history to serve as the House’s presiding officer.

The manner of her swearing in did not sit well with House Republicans.

“Today’s illegitimate power grab by Rep. McClinton, who was sworn-in without notice and in complete secret, is a paperwork insurrection typical of a Democratic Party that is constantly displaying that their last two years of rhetoric on respect for institutions has been nothing but crocodile tears,” said House Republican Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) in a statement.

Democrats point to the fact that they won a majority of the races in the November election, 102-101. The problem – three of those 102 seats are currently vacant, following the October passing of Tony DeLuca and the resignations of Summer Lee (D-34) and Austin Davis (D-35).

“As majority leader, McClinton’s appointment as presiding officer is established by law and consistent with legal precedent set in 2004, when the majority leader, Republican Sam Smith (R-Jefferson) served as the House’s presiding officer on Dec. 9, 2004, to schedule a special election to fill a seat vacated by a Republican lawmaker in the 189th legislative district,” stated the Democratic House Caucus in a news release.

“Pennsylvanians cast their ballots in the free and fair 2022 General Election. The results of that election are not in dispute and in the majority of legislative districts – 102 out of 203 – the people of Pennsylvania voted to elect a Democrat to represent them in the House of Representatives. Pennsylvania’s voters have spoken, and the will of the people is the ultimate authority in this Commonwealth,” McClinton said.

Her first official action was to set the date for three special elections to replace DeLuca, Lee and Davis. The three special elections are set for February 7, 2023.

This came on the heels of Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth Leigh Chapman returning the Writ of Election submitted by Cutler on November 30, citing issues with the rationale behind his selection of a special election date – Feb. 7, 2023.

“While admitting three vacancies exist by calling special elections in the 32nd, 34th and 35th districts, vacancies that gives Republicans a 101-99 majority in the House, Democrats are creating internal confusion by simultaneously speciously alleging they have a fake, gerrymandered majority that has the authority to conduct the business of the House,” said Cutler.

Chapman rejected Cutler’s Writ for three reasons:

  1. A Writ may only be issued to fill an unexpired term. DeLuca’s term ended on November 30 – the day the Writ was issued.
  2. Writs are required within 10 days of a vacancy. Since DeLuca passed on October 9, the Writ was not received in the required time frame.
  3. Cutler’s Writ was premature, since DeLuca’s new term began on December 1.

It remains possible that the House Republican caucus could file a lawsuit to stop the special election date.

This story will be updated.

7 Responses

  1. MAGA GOP will complain about anything. But the Dems did do some stupid moves by early resignations and such.

  2. The irony of the Fake Elector Party complaining about ANYTHING is too much. The Rs have turned into a sore loser grievance party and the Ds responded like sore winners. Cry me a river. Politics is a dirty business.

  3. I agree. Mastriano raced to crazy town after getting drunk with power opposing covid restrictions. Problem is once covid declined Mastriano went out of fashion like the hula hoop. Republicans in House look like loser cry babies. R’s in the State Senate are lucky for the hapless State Senate Dem leadership. The House Dems won and House Rs look like sore losers.

    1. Before Austin and Summer resigned, House Rs looked like sore losers. But after Austin and Summer needlessly resigned, House Rs will be winners and hold a temporary majority on January 3, gift wrapped by poor House D strategy.

      You have to think Shapiro and House Ds quietly reached out to individual House Rs to try to make a deal for supporting Joanna on Jan 3. Now we know that either 1) they didn’t or 2) those efforts didn’t go so well. Why wouldn’t House Ds keep Summer and Austin in place to give even an appearance of strength right up to Jan 3?

      If I were a House Dem, I’d be watching this and wondering who in my leadership team or which staffer made the incredibly stupid decision to implement this strategy. It’s not coincidence that both Summer and Austin resigned on the same day. Someone is calling the shots here. Dems should find out who it is and force them to resign to prevent them from making more dumb decisions. It’s a shocking mistake.

      Austin could have served several weeks into the new session. Why tell him to leave now? Why give up a vote when you don’t have to? Is there a Republican mole in Dem leadership or staff? Are Democrats trying to dream up reasons to look inept and give their rank and file members pause to think about leaving the party? What other explanations could there be?

      This is the biggest strategic blunder anyone in the PA House has committed since the pay raise vote in 2005, and that’s saying something.

  4. Are we really fighting about who gets to schedule the election they both agree should be Feb 7? Like maybe if republicans wanted it to be lined up with the May primary it would be worth fighting about. And next might be a lawsuit over the same date. Let me guess the lawyers getting paid by both sides of the lawsuit are advising that move.

  5. House Dems badly fumbled this. Davis and Lee resigned prematurely handing a clear majority to the Rs. McClinton was already literally relying on a dead man’s vote to claim the title of Majority Leader, and that tenuous claim disappeared with those resignations.

    The premature resignations erase any claim that McClinton could act to schedule the special elections.

    Getting sworn in secretly to facilitate a power grab – the optics are less than flattering.

    Plus, Cutler’s writ from Nov 30 had solid precedent – it was precisely the same as McCall’s action to replace the late Rep Donatucci.

    This blunder could cost McClinton support with her caucus. Looks a lot like amateur hour, as opposed to someone who is ready to serve as Speaker. If this is a preview of how the House Dems plan to “govern” once they finally get the majority…

  6. This is pathetic. Benninghoff dropped the ball with maps. Republicans chose to abandon the SE. Mastriano raced to crazy town as far right house members supported him.

    You lost. This is so embarrassing and pathetic.

    Have some self respect.


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