The House Democratic Caucus made history Friday by electing an all-female leadership that includes multiple firsts in Delaware’s political history.
To lead the second half of the 152nd General Assembly, members selected former House Majority Leader Rep. Valerie Longhurst as Speaker of the House. Rep. Longhurst succeeds Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, who stepped down Friday after leading the House as Speaker for more than a decade.
In addition to the House chamber electing Rep. Longhurst as speaker, Democratic caucus members also elected Rep. Melissa Minor-Brown as House Majority Leader and Rep. Kerri Evelyn Harris as House Majority Whip.
This is the first time in Delaware history that a woman has been elected speaker, the first time a person of color has been elected as majority leader, and the first time an open member of the LGBTQ+ community has been elected to leadership in either chamber.
“Today is a historic day and I am truly humbled by the faith my caucus has placed in me to serve as the first female Speaker of the House,” said Rep. Longhurst, D-Bear. “It is an extraordinary privilege to be part of a groundbreaking, all-female leadership team and I’m looking forward to working with them to create a future where every voice is heard, every individual is valued and every community thrives.”
First elected in 2004, Rep. Longhurst previously served as majority whip from 2008-2012 and served as majority leader from 2012-2023. She has championed legislation promoting equality – particularly for women, passed laws protecting our environment, spearheaded gun safety bills, drove criminal justice reform, and led the effort to tackle the behavioral health crisis.
First elected in 2018, Rep. Minor-Brown has served as majority whip since 2022 and currently chairs the House Health and Human Development Committee.
“I’m very grateful to have the support of our caucus to serve as the first Black Majority Leader and I’m ready to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our historic leadership team to continue shaping a brighter future for our state,” said Rep. Minor-Brown, D-New Castle South. “I’m 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.”
First elected in 2022, Rep. Kerri Evelyn Harris currently serves as vice-chair of the House Health and Human Development Committee.
“I’m honored to join Reps. Longhurst and Minor-Brown as a member of the House leadership team so that we may continue the work of this caucus as champions to those in the community who feel as though they have no voice,” said Rep. Harris, D-Dover South. “My family instilled the importance of service to others, it’s what has guided me throughout my entire life and it will continue to be the foundation that guides me as I work with my colleagues to provide real, positive impacts to those we serve.”
Delaware Democratic Party Chair Betsy Maron has released the following statement in response to the changes in leadership in the Delaware State House.
“[I’m] proud to see the speaker’s gavel presented to a woman for the first time in Delaware’s history, alongside an all female caucus leadership slate. Representative Valerie Longhurst has long been a staunch advocate of her district and the Delaware Democratic Party. I am confident that she will continue the legacy of stalwart Democratic leadership in the House as the chamber enters its next chapter.”