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February 28, 2023

Joanna McClinton becomes first woman elected as speaker of Pa. House

Mark Rozzi resigned his post Tuesday, throwing his support behind the Democratic majority leader

State Rep. Joanna McClinton became the first woman to serve as Pennsylvania's speaker of the house Tuesday after the man holding the post, Mark Rozzi, resigned.

McClinton, a Democrat, beat out the Republican nominee, Rep. Carl Walker Metzgar, of Somerset, in a 102-99 vote moments after Rozzi stepped down.  

"I think that (McClinton is) the right person to lead this House right now," Rozzi told Spotlight PA ahead of his resignation. "And I couldn't be more proud of the woman who I'm going to vote for for speaker of the House of Representatives."

McClinton represents the 191st District, which spans Yeadon, Darby and parts of Philadelphia. She was first elected in 2015, and rose to Democratic Caucus Chair by 2018. She became the first woman to serve as the House's minority leader in 2020.

She later became the first woman to serve as majority leader, too, after the Democrats retook the House earlier this month through special elections.

Though the Democrats gained a slim 102-101 majority after the 2022 elections, three vacancies in Democratic districts brought their numbers down to 99, spurring a chaotic grab for power. To break the gridlock, Rozzi pledged to switch his affiliation to independent, earning the support of 16 Republicans, though it is not clear whether he ever did so. He became speaker on Jan. 4.

Rozzi recently oversaw the passage of two bills designed to extend the window for child sex abuse victims to file civil lawsuits against their attackers. The legislation, long stalled by political gridlock and failures, is a personal project for Rozzi, who has spoken about being sexually abused by a Catholic priest as a child. 

Rozzi told Spotlight PA he was resigning because he had accomplished what he set out to do.

Prior to her historic political career, McClinton worked as a public defender in Philadelphia and was later chief counsel for state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams. A graduate of La Salle University and Villanova Law, she was born and raised in Southwest Philly.

Though McClinton has not yet released a statement, her official page on the House website already has been updated to reflect her new role, and she retweeted congratulatory messages from Gov. Josh Shapiro and Lt. Gov. Austin Davis.

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