HARRISBURG, Pa. (KDKA) — Pennsylvania Rep. Joanna McClinton is the first African American woman elected to lead her party in the Pennsylvania Legislature.
When Pa. Rep. Frank Dermody of Oakmont lost his reelection bid, that created an opening for a new Democratic leader in the state House. The Democrats broke new ground with a young 38-year-old legislator from Philadelphia.
“I’ve been in the House for five years, and I am so excited and humbled to be the first woman to lead the Democrats in the Pennsylvania House,” Rep. McClinton told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Tuesday.
McClinton, an attorney, is both the first woman and the first African American woman in this position. How did she move up so quickly in the boys club of Harrisburg?
“It could not have happened, quite honestly, without partners in western Pennsylvania. The first folks who talked to me about filling the big shoes of Leader Dermody were members of the House from Allegheny County,” says McClinton.
McClinton now leads a party that lost seats in the state House where Republicans outnumber Democrats 213 to 90.
The new Democratic leader says Democrats need to communicate that it’s not a left-wing Socialist party, as often portrayed by Republicans.
“The Democratic Party is a very big tent. We have room for everybody. We have room for the ‘progressives,’ and, of course, we have lots of room for the conservatives,” Rep. McClinton said.
WATCH: More With Rep. McClinton
The new leader is focused on economic disparities.
“One thing this pandemic has shown is that inequities that have always existed, not just in urban communities but in rural communities as it relates to health care and disparities, nothing has been done about it, yet the Republicans have been in control for years,” says McClinton.
But with both Republican and Democratic House leadership now coming from back east, where does that leave southwestern Pennsylvania?
“All it’s simply reflective of is where the population is. It’s not reflective of a priority or of us versus them,” she said. “If anyone checks my personal Facebook, as soon as it was clear the Steelers had won, I wrote a big congratulatory post.”
Well, that never hurts.