Joanna McClinton is a lifelong Southwest Philadelphia resident who has represented the 191st District — comprised of communities in Southwest and West Philadelphia, Yeadon and Darby (Delaware County) — in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives since 2015. On February 28, 2023, McClinton became the first woman in Pennsylvania history elected as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. She is the 143rd person to lead the House.
When McClinton became the Democratic Party minority leader in 2020, she also became the highest-ranking woman to serve in the General Assembly’s 244 years. Before taking her seat in Harrisburg, McClinton was chief counsel to state Senator Anthony Hardy Williams. She also spent seven years as an assistant public defender.
McClinton is a minister who holds an undergraduate degree from La Salle University and a law degree from Villanova University. When elected to the speakership, she was 40 years old.
After the November 2022 midterm elections, when PA Democrats won a slim majority in the House of Representatives, insiders roundly assumed McClinton would become their speaker. Instead, the House chose Mark Rozzi of Berks County, who promptly announced he would no longer caucus with the Democrats and became an Independent. Less than two months later, Rozzi stepped down, and McClinton was elected to House leader with 102 Democratic and no Republican votes.
Although McClinton the first woman and certainly the first Black woman to serve as Pennsylvania’s House Speaker, she is not the first Black person to full the role. That honorific goes to K. Leroy Irvis of Allegheny County, who became the 130th speaker of the House in 1977.
The last Philadelphian to serve as Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives was Republican Dennis O’Brien, from 2007 to 2008. The last Philadelphia Democrat to assume the leadership role was Bob O’Donnell, from 1990 to 1992.
Here’s what else we know about Joanna McClinton
Speaking to a Philadelphia Citizen audience, Joanna McClinton said about working with other representatives that, “I start out by listening to others’ concerns. It’s really reminiscent for me of my work as a public defender and as a youth leader at youth ministry at church. I listen to issues, I make connections with people, and I make every effort to see how we can get closest to the solution.”
- CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND WOMEN’S HEALTH REFORM are among her top priorities. She is a member of the Women’s Health Caucus.
- SHE SUPPORTS GUN VIOLENCE RESEARCH and has co-created a bill to establish a Pennsylvania selection committee to accept proposals to fuel a nonpartisan research center.
- SERVES ON PA SAFE CAUCUS, a group of 81 representatives working to reduce the causes and impacts of violence.
- CO-SPONSORED A STATEWIDE RAPE KIT TRACKING BILL with Sen. Katie Muth to allow victims to login anytime to access the status of their evidence.
- IS THE DRIVING FORCE BEHIND PROPOSING A PA CROWN ACT, to end hair-based discrimination, especially when the discrimination concerns natural Black hair.
- WORKS ALONGSIDE REP. BRIAN SIMS on the LGBTQ Equality Caucus, whose signature bill, HB 300, would prohibit discrimination against an individual based on their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression in Pennsylvania.
Citizen coverage of Joanna McClinton
Videos featuring Joanna McClinton
Correction: A previous version of this post incorrectly described McClinton as the parent of two. She does not have children.
More ways to learn about Joanna McClinton
Visit Joanna McClinton’s campaign website.
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Lead support for Every Voice, Every Vote is provided by the William Penn Foundation, with additional funding from The Lenfest Institute, Peter and Judy Leone, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Harriet and Larry Weiss, and the Wyncote Foundation, among others.
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