Southwest Philadelphia lawmaker becomes only Black woman in Pennsylvania party leadership

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A Southwest Philadelphia lawmaker has made history at the Pennsylvania State House.

Democrats in Harrisburg chose Representative Joanna McClinton to serve as minority leader and, on Tuesday, she officially took on her new role.

I had a chance to chat with her, moments after her swearing-in ceremony, where she became the first woman and second black lawmaker to hold the post.

McClinton tells me she's thrilled to not only be opening that door, but making sure it stays open.

This is McClinton's fourth term in the State House and now she's the only Black woman to ever hold a party leadership position in Harrisburg.

McClinton is also an ordained preacher and started Tuesday's ceremony in prayer.

"I have to say driving up here, I had feelings inside that I haven't had before," she says. "I was talking to myself and singing and dancing in the car with a bunch of gratitude and joy, just saying 'It's going to be a lot of work, but I'm thrilled to be able to do it with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle.'"

The 38-year-old worked as an assistant public defender for seven years before getting into politics.

"There are moments when it is still truly unbelievable," McClinton says. "Growing up in Southwest Philly in a single-parent home, the best I could dream of is becoming a lawyer because I never saw elected women when I was a child. They were mostly men. We're seeing a new wave of women come around so that our daughters and our nieces can think about this as a real option."

She says her immediate goal is making sure people get critical resources as we weather this pandemic.
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