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Women Running the House: Glass Ceiling ‘Shattered’ in Delaware General Assembly

Originally Published by Cris Barrish for WHYY

“These doors are now open and this glass ceiling has been not broken, but shattered.”

With those momentous words, voiced by state Rep. Valerie Longhurst to an eruption of whoops, cheers, and resounding claps, the six-month session of the Delaware General Assembly came to a close.

Shattered indeed.

Just minutes earlier, Longhurst had been elected Delaware’s first female speaker of the House. A procession of all 41 members, Democrats and Republicans alike, marched up the aisle, each presenting ”Madam Speaker” with congratulations and a white rose.

Not only did Longhurst make history Friday night, her fellow Democrats picked Melissa Minor-Brown as majority leader and Kerri Evelyn Harris as majority whip.

The trio comprise the Legislature’s first all-female party leadership slate. In addition, Minor-Brown is the first Black lawmaker named majority leader, and Harris, who is also Black, is the first open member of the LGBTQ community in a leadership role.

This marks the first time two Black lawmakers ever held two of the top spots in either chamber. Thirteen of 41 House members, and three of 21 senators, are Black.

Minor-Brown, a registered nurse in her third two-year term, said she’s “excited to be a model and a voice for young Black girls out there and inspire them to claim their seat at the table. They are all powerful beyond measure.”

Harris, who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2018 and won a House seat in November, said she wants to use her leadership role to “continue the work of this caucus as champions to those in the community who feel as though they have no voice.”

Jill Itzkowitz of the Delaware League of Women Voters hailed the historic changes.

“We’re elated, and we hope this trend continues in the future,’’ said Itzkowitz, who chairs the league’s voting and elections committees. “We find that this is a step toward more inclusiveness in government, especially since there will be a diversity of race and sexual orientation.

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