In a move that surprised many, Bucks County State House Republican Representatives Joe Hogan, Kristin Marcell, and Kathleen Tomlinson were among 16 GOP lawmakers to cross party lines and help elect a Democratic House speaker – even though Republicans had a razor thin, albeit temporary majority.
Democrat Rep. Mark Rozzi (Berks) was elected 115-85 in a vote that saved Harrisburg from the type of political circus currently happening in Washington, D.C. For freshman lawmakers Hogan and Marcell, their very first vote in office was a display of undeniable bipartisanship. This is a sentiment Rozzi echoed after being elected, declaring he will neither caucus with Democrats nor Republicans.
“I pledge my loyalty to the people of the commonwealth, the people who are tired of the hyper-partisanship from both parties, the people who are tired of the middle-of-the-night legislating, the people who are tired of the backroom dealmaking, the people who are tired of dysfunction and obstruction,” Rozzi said on the House floor. “The commonwealth that is home to independence will now be home to the commonwealth’s first independent speaker.”
Democrats, hope, and probably expect, Rozzi to stop a Republican package of constitutional amendments that includes banning abortions from advancing this session. Rozzi also seeks to hold special elections for the 34th and 35th Legislative Districts near Pittsburgh for Feb. 7, a date disputed between House Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton and House Republican Leader Bryan Cutler presently making its way through the Commonwealth Court. The special elections are to fill the seats of former State Representatives Summer Lee and Austin Davis, who were elected U.S. representative and lieutenant governor respectively. Cutler wanted to push back the special elections to the May 16 primary – the very last day the elections could be legally held – in what critics say was a cynical attempt to preserve a Republican majority. McClinton was also set to be the first Black woman to serve as Speaker of the House before Cutler staked his own claim – leading to the compromise candidate Rozzi.