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La Salle News

December 2, 2020

Alumna makes history in Pa. House of Representatives

Joanna McClinton
Courtesy Joanna McClinton

Joanna E. McClinton, ’03, will become the first Black woman to serve as floor leader of the Commonwealth’s General Assembly.

Joanna E. McClinton, ’03, is making history.

The La Salle University alumna, who serves in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, was elected Nov. 12 by her House Democratic colleagues to serve as the House Minority Leader for the upcoming 2021-22 session.

McClinton, who serves Philadelphia and Delaware counties as representative of Pennsylvania’s 191st district, is completing her third term in the Pennsylvania House. She will be one of the highest-ranking women in the General Assembly next session. She is the first Black woman to hold a party leadership position in Harrisburg. She’s also the first woman elected to serve as Minority Leader in the Pennsylvania House and the first Black lawmaker in 43 years to hold the role as floor leader in the General Assembly.

“It is very humbling and exciting. It’s a true honor, to serve in this capacity,” said McClinton, 38, who earned degrees from La Salle in political science and leadership in global understanding. “My colleagues chose me to ascend into this position, one with more authority in our caucus and in how their offices are maintained. For that, I am so appreciative.”

Photo of Joanna McClinton, House Minority Leader in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
Joanna E. McClinton, ’03.
(Courtesy Wesley Anderson)

McClinton, in this role, will act as the Democratic leader who is responsible for the entire caucus. Her day-to-day will change “extraordinarily,” she said, as she governs a Democratic caucus that employs 600 people across Pennsylvania.

McClinton maintains strong ties with La Salle University. In October, she helped convene a panel of La Salle alumni who hold elected office for a bipartisan Zoom panel—A Conversation with Lasallians in Leadership— aimed at increasing voter engagement.

McClinton’s ascent from her 2015 election to the Pennsylvania House to her role as floor leader is among the fastest in the General Assembly’s history. On the same day as McClinton’s appointment, Pennsylvania State Senator Kim Ward (R) earned election as Senate majority leader. This marks the first time in the 244-year history of the General Assembly that the top two legislators are women.

“We haven’t had a chance to chat yet, but I know Senator Ward and I are excited,” said McClinton. “We’ve been able to do something that’s never been done before in the Commonwealth. At a certain point, though, it’s less about me and more about paving the way for so many women to come into this space and even higher.”

McClinton added: “I really do hope that women across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and certainly those in my legislative district, know we can dream big and we can take a leap.”

—Christopher A. Vito