DOVER – 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 House 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.”
In stepping down Friday, Rep. Schwartzkopf caps off 11 years as House speaker, first elected in 2013 after serving as majority leader the previous four years.
During his time as speaker the House, Rep. Schwartzkopf has overseen a chamber that has enshrined protections and equality for the LGBTQ+ community; made Delaware a leader in gun safety; protected reproductive health; increased wages, protections and benefits for working families; passed sweeping criminal justice reform; strengthened voting rights; and conducted the most open legislative redistricting process in the state’s history.
“It’s been a tremendous honor to serve in this position and to see how our state and many of my colleagues have grown through the years. I often joke that we’re a lot like a family – we fight, we argue, but we ultimately care about each other and the people we represent,” said Rep. Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach. “I’m proud of what we have accomplished, and I know that under Valerie’s leadership, this caucus and chamber will continue to achieve great things for all the people of Delaware.”