The Lead

Rep. Rosita Youngblood, the first Black woman ever elected to a House leadership post, is retiring

By: - February 18, 2020 5:01 pm

State Rep. Rosita Youngblood (Photo via Pa. House of Representatives)

Rep. Rosita Youngblood, D-Philadelphia, will not run for reelection and retire at the end of her current term, her 15th in Harrisburg.

Youngblood, the House Democratic Caucus Secretary, was the first Black woman to ever hold a leadership position in the history of the Pennsylvania General Assembly when she was elected by fellow Democrats to the position in 2015.

In a letter to House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny, announcing her retirement, Youngblood said she was “humbled to have led the way for my peers.”

“I have been blessed beyond measure to represent North and Northwest Philadelphia, but I know the time is right to step down from my position,” she added in the letter.

As a lawmaker, Youngblood has passed legislation giving relatives the first chance at taking custody of a child under public care. She also has unsuccessfully pushed a bill over many years to rename Negro Mountain in Somerset County, a seven-hour drive from her North Philadelphia district.

“Nobody uses that word anymore,” Youngblood said in 2015. “It’s outdated. Who uses ‘negro’ anymore? It had its place in time, but not anymore.”

She also was a foe of former House Speaker Bill DeWeese, D-Greene. Youngblood sued DeWeese, then the chamber’s most powerful Democrat, in 2002, over her low staff funding, claiming it was retaliation for not voting the party line. 

When DeWeese was poised to take back the speaker’s gavel in 2006, she was one of three Democrats to vote for Republican John Perzel.

The 198th House District, which Youngblood has represented since 1994, includes parts of north Philadelphia such as Allegheny West, Nicetown-Tioga and Germantown — as well as La Salle University.

Youngblood is the 17th lawmaker to announce her retirement, and the sixth Democrat.

Her retirement will spark a messy fight to replace her. 

Bernard Williams, a 25-year-old hopeful, challenged Youngblood in 2018 and lost 69-31 percent. Filling petitions for a second run Tuesday in Harrisburg, he said he’d heard of at least six other candidates vying for the now-open seat.

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.