Pennsylvania Senate picks first woman as top-ranking member

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WSKG – Kim Ward, the GOP’s majority leader of Pennsylvania’s state Senate, will become the first woman to serve as the chamber’s highest-ranking member, Republicans said Tuesday.

Republicans selected Ward to serve as interim president pro tempore while the Senate is out of session in December. She is on track to be elected by the chamber’s members as president pro tempore when the next two-year legislative session starts in January.

Ward, 66, of Westmoreland County, became the first female majority leader in the chamber last year and underwent surgery for breast cancer while leading the caucus. She was first elected in 2008, when she was a Westmoreland County commissioner, and is serving her fourth term.

Republicans will return in January with a 28-22 majority in the chamber. Democrats picked up one seat in the midterm elections. The 50-member chamber will have six new faces to replace members who were beaten or decided against running again.

She will succeed Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre, who is finishing a 24-year career in the Senate after a failed run for governor this year. Both Ward and Corman supported efforts to overturn Pennsylvania’s certified election result in 2020, signing a letter asking Congress to delay certifying the state’s electoral votes last January – despite no evidence that would call those results into question.

Freshman Sen. Joe Pittman, R-Indiana, was elected by the caucus to succeed Ward as the GOP’s majority floor leader. Pittman, 45, was a longtime Senate aide before he ran in 2019 to succeed his retiring boss, Sen. Don White. Sen. Scott Martin, R-Lancaster, is replacing retiring Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, as head of the powerful Appropriations committee, which oversees the construction of the state budget each year.

Democrats reelected Sen. Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, as minority floor leader. Costa, 64, was first elected to the Senate in 1996 and became minority leader in 2011.