2 women poised to lead the Pennsylvania Legislature, a first in the state’s history

Democrat Joanna McClinton and Republican Kim Ward shattered the glass ceiling
From left: State Rep. Joanna McClinton and state Sen. Kim Ward
From left: State Rep. Joanna McClinton and state Sen. Kim Ward are the first women to serve as Pennsylvania House speaker and Senate president pro tempore, respectively. Photo credit Left: Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images. Right: State Sen. Kim Ward

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — More than a week since Election Day, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives is officially poised to turn blue.

Democrats are on track to have a razor-thin majority in the House next session having finally flipped the Montgomery County seat long held by Republican Todd Stephens.

In the long history of the Pennsylvania Legislature, a woman has never been the top leader in either the state House or Senate. That glass ceiling has now been shattered, as Joanna McClinton and Kim Ward are slated to assume the roles of House speaker and Senate president pro tempore, respectively.

This is actually not the first time that state Rep. McClinton has made history. The Philadelphia Democrat was the first woman and African American to be elected chair of the House Democratic Caucus and the first woman to be elected House Democratic leader.

Now that her party has taken control of the state House, she’s in line to become its first female speaker.

“I’m grateful to see that I’ve been able to leave the advocacy that I did in court for many years as a public defender and bring it now to a statewide level by serving as the representative — the highest one,” McClinton said.

It’s unclear exactly when McClinton will assume the role, as the Democrats’ majority technically hinges on the resolution of a few special elections. The races are considered safe for the party, but voting dates have yet to be determined.

Across the aisle in the upper chamber, there’s more clarity: Republican Kim Ward of Westmoreland County earned the support of her caucus to become the first female state Senate president.

That accomplishment comes as voters in western Pennsylvania made Summer Lee (D-Pa. 12) the first Black woman to represent the Keystone State in Washington, D.C., joining four other Democratic women in the delegation.

“I keep saying this is a win for Pennsylvanians,” said LaDeshia Maxwell, policy chair at She Can Win, a bipartisan nonprofit that trains Black and brown women how to run for office.

“Even if you don’t like [the candidates] because they constantly come to the forefront and they make sure that everyone is represented, and that everyone is taken care of, especially our most vulnerable. And those of us who have been left out of a lot of things — with policy, legislation and things of that nature — when you have a Black woman in office, you’re not going to be forgotten,” she said.

McClinton is a veteran of the organization.

“I am a person who has been supported by She Can Win,” said McClinton, “have attended training programs run by She Can Win, and look forward to continuing to have a pipeline for women of color to be at the table —and to have a seat at the table.”

McClinton's and Ward’s positions also come at a politically pivotal time, as a woman’s right to choose has been contested and remains at the forefront of political discourse.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Left: Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images. Right: State Sen. Kim Ward