The exterior of the Pennsylvania state Capitol on March 7, 2023 (Photo by Amanda Mustard for the Pennsylvania Capital-Star).
As former Pennsylvania House Speaker Mark Rozzi (D-Berks) announced his candidacy for auditor general last weekend, he also endorsed a Democratic candidate to take his Reading-area seat.
Jacklyn Rusnock, an instructor at Reading Muhlenberg Career and Technology Center, announced her plan to run for the 126th Legislative District seat next year with a focus on health care.
While it’s not unusual for an outgoing lawmaker to endorse a candidate to take their seat, or even for a candidate to run to replace their spouse, Rusnock and Rozzi are former spouses.
Rusnock, of Muhlenberg Township, said she supported Rozzi’s decision to seek office in 2012, which he has described as a calling to protect children from the abuse he suffered as a child by a Catholic priest.
“We raised a family together. We had a lot of the same ideals but it just didn’t work out,” Rusnock told the Capital-Star, talking about the couple’s 2020 divorce after 25 years of marriage.
Rusnock said she and Rozzi continue to share mutual respect and understanding of each other’s strengths.
“Just because we split did not mean that I was going to take that opportunity to destroy him or tear him down in any way because he still had work to do,” Rusnock said.
In his six terms as a state representative, Rozzi has worked to pass legislation to give victims of childhood sexual abuse a chance for justice. In 2019, the General Assembly passed legislation that was signed by Gov. Tom Wolf to prospectively give future victims an additional five years — until age 55 — to file a civil lawsuit.
In January, he reached a deal with House Republicans that resulted in his election as speaker, breaking a partisan deadlock over who would lead the chamber. He leveraged the position to advance legislation to create a two-year window for victims whose claims had expired to sue their abusers.
GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX
Rusnock holds a degree in dental hygiene from West Virginia University and worked as a dental hygienist for 25 years before becoming a dental occupations teacher at Reading Muhlenberg Career and Technology Center, the vocational and technical training school for Muhlenberg and Reading school districts.
She also coaches softball at Muhlenberg High School and served as a member of the Muhlenberg school board. She touts her dental career as an asset that gives her insight into the health care system.
“People don’t think of dental professionals as being a part of the health care system but in reality we’re a really big part of health care,” Rusnock said, noting that her experience gives her a strong background to tackle health care issues in the Legislature.
In particular, Rusnock said she would bring a strong focus on women’s health care to the House.
“I know they want to give the power to the states with Roe v. Wade and that is a pressing issue that I would like to lend my voice to,” she said.
Rusnock said she moved to Muhlenberg Township in 1975 with her parents and has lived there most of her life. She returned after college to raise a family because she loves the community, Rusnock added.
That deep connection, Rusnock said, makes her well-suited to represent the area in the House.
“I want good education, I want good health care, I want good paying jobs so people can stay here and raise their families here,” she said.
SUPPORT NEWS YOU TRUST.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.