HARRISBURG — After nearly a decade of being largely shut out of leadership positions, lawmakers from Philadelphia and its suburbs will soon be flexing political muscle in Democratic circles in the state House of Representatives.
On Tuesday, three Philadelphia legislators were elected to leadership spots in the House's Democratic caucus. Rep. Jordan Harris will be the caucus' new whip — the No. 2 leader, whose job is to persuade members to vote on bills important to the party. Rep. Joanna McClinton was chosen to be the caucus chair, and Rep. Rosita Youngblood was reelected to be its secretary.
Rep. Matt Bradford of Montgomery County will be the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, through which all bills requiring approval to spend taxpayer money must pass. He is taking over the spot vacated by retiring Rep. Joe Markosek of Allegheny County.
As expected, Minority Leader Frank Dermody (D., Allegheny) retained the top leadership job in the caucus.
The ascent of the legislators from the southeastern part of the state was notable: For the last six years, the power base of Democratic leaders in the House has been firmly planted in Allegheny County, home to Pittsburgh.
(After Tuesday's votes, Allegheny went from holding three of seven Democratic leadership spots to one of seven.)
The new leadership slate elected Tuesday reflects the shift ushered in by midterm election voters: more women and more progressive candidates from the populous Southeast.
Though Democrats still are outnumbered, 110-93, in the House, they netted 11 seats — all from Philadelphia and Montgomery, Chester, Bucks and Delaware Counties. They also gained nine women, the majority from the Southeast.
On the flip side, Republicans in the House lost a number of critical suburban Philadelphia seats, and their caucus will now be more conservative. Only one of the eight GOP leadership positions is held by a legislator in the Southeast: Rep. Marcy Toepel (R., Montgomery), who was reelected caucus chair on Tuesday.
GOP House members also chose Rep. Bryan Cutler (R., Lancaster) to be the new majority leader. Rep. Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny), a fiscal conservative, was nominated as their choice for speaker — although the speaker position isn't finalized until the new legislative session begins in January, and the full chamber votes on it.