Year of Woman ar­rives in D.C. and Har­ris­burg

The Phoenix - - OPINION -

For­get the “Year” of the woman. For Penn­syl­va­nia, Nov. 13 was the “Day” of the woman.

First, Demo­crat Mary Gay Scan­lon was sworn in as the new­est mem­ber of Congress, tak­ing the oath to fill the va­cant 7th Dis­trict seat of Pat Mee­han. Re­mem­ber, Scan­lon ac­tu­ally won two elec­tions last week. She won the newly con­structed 5th Dis­trict seat, but she also topped Repub­li­can Pearl Kim in the spe­cial elec­tion for the 7th seat.

When she placed her hand on the Bi­ble and re­peated the oath ad­min­is­tered by Speaker Paul Ryan, Scan­lon made a lit­tle his­tory. She be­came the Key­stone State’s first woman mem­ber of Congress since 2014.

Last week there were zero women in the Penn­syl­va­nia con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion.

Now there are four. But only one of them — Scan­lon — has al­ready been sworn in.

Join­ing her in Jan­uary will be three other women from south­east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia, fel­low Democrats Chrissy Houla­han from Ch­ester County, Su­san Wild from the Le­high County, and Madeleine Dean from Mont­gomery County.

All four Democrats were vic­to­ri­ous as Democrats re­gained con­trol of the House. All four were in Washington for ori­en­ta­tion.

Scan­lon was ac­tu­ally run­ning in two races Nov. 6.

In ad­di­tion to the 5th Dis­trict race, she and her Repub­li­can coun­ter­part Pearl Kim also were vy­ing in a spe­cial elec­tion to fill the seat va­cated by U.S. Rep. Pat Mee­han, R-7. Mee­han re­signed the seat in April amid re­ports that he used tax­payer funds to set­tle a ha­rass­ment suit filed by a for­mer staff mem­ber.

Scan­lon will be part of the 115th Congress for all of seven days. That’s how long this cur­rent group will ac­tu­ally be in ses­sion be­fore the new Congress ar­rives in Jan­uary.

But it re­mains im­por­tant be­cause Scan­lon now holds se­nior­ity over ev­ery other in­com­ing mem­ber of Congress, in­clud­ing her three fe­male coun­ter­parts from South­east­ern Pa.

Scan­lon was wel­comed by mem­bers of both par­ties in the Penn­syl­va­nia del­e­ga­tion af­ter tak­ing the oath. There were also two other peo­ple in at­ten­dance, most ap­pro­pri­ate for this spe­cial oc­ca­sion.

There to sup­port Scan­lon were Allyson Schwartz and Mar­jorie Mar­golies Mezvin­sky. They were the last two women to break up Penn­syl­va­nia’s all­male del­e­ga­tion in D.C.

Now they need to cast their eyes on the Se­nate. And the gov­er­nor’s man­sion. Penn­syl­va­nia has never elected a woman as a U.S. Sen­a­tor.

It wasn’t just Washington where women were mak­ing a lit­tle his­tory. There was an­other big mo­ment Nov. 14 for women in Har­ris­burg, proof that fe­male voices are be­ing heard loud and clear in the state cap­i­tal.

State Rep. Joanna McClin­ton, D-191, who rep­re­sents a por­tion of eastern Del­a­ware County, be­came the first African-Amer­i­can and first woman to hold a cau­cus lead­er­ship post af­ter she was tapped by her peers to head the House Demo­cratic Cau­cus. She has served in the House since 2015.

It wasn’t all good news for Delco pols in Har­ris­burg, how­ever. State Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D-161, came up short in her bid to be mi­nor­ity whip.

While the ar­rival of Scan­lon and her three coun­ter­parts in Washington is long over­due in break­ing up Penn­syl­va­nia’s old-boy net­work in Washington, and McClin­ton’s ap­point­ment marks a sea change in Har­ris­burg, women are still woe­fully un­der-rep­re­sented in our rul­ing bod­ies.

The Year of the Woman should be just a start.

It wasn’t just Washington where women were mak­ing a lit­tle his­tory. There was an­other big mo­ment for women in Har­ris­burg, proof that fe­male voices are be­ing heard loud and clear in the state cap­i­tal.

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