McClinton voted Pa. speaker; first Black woman to win post

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Philadelphia state Rep. Joanna McClinton on Tuesday became the first woman to serve as speaker of the Pennsylvania House, ascending to the chamber's top position on the strength of a fresh one-vote Democratic majority.

The leadership reshuffling came nearly two months after Rep. Mark Rozzi, a Berks County Democrat, became the surprise choice for speaker. Democrats flipped a net of 12 seats in November to retake majority control after more than a decade, but their margin did not become effective until their candidates won three special elections earlier this month.

Rozzi had been serving as speaker since his surprise election on Jan. 3, and said Tuesday he was willingly stepping aside but would remain a House member.

He called McClinton “one of the most intelligent and compassionate women I have met in politics.”

In nominating her, Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Philadelphia, noted McClinton is also the second African American to serve as speaker, after the late Speaker Leroy Irvis. The vote was 102-99, reflecting two absences.

“She’s brilliant, formidable, and she gives voice to our values in ways that ring so true it reverberates around this chamber,” said Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny.

McClinton, 40, a state lawmaker since 2015, grew up in southwest Philadelphia, where she still lives, and attended La Salle University and Villanova Law School. She has worked as a public defender and a state Senate attorney.

She has been the Democratic floor leader since 2020, and was also the first woman to hold that position.

Republicans nominated Rep. Carl Metzgar of Somerset County.

Rozzi’s top legislative priority, a two-year window for victims to file otherwise outdated lawsuits with claims of child sexual abuse, passed the House last week.

Mark Scolforo, The Associated Press