State Sen. Kim Ward made history Thursday as fellow Senate Republicans appointed her as the state legislature’s first woman to serve as majority leader.
Ward, of Hempfield, replaces Sen. Jake Corman, who has been appointed Senate president pro tempore.
“I’m very, very honored today to have been chosen as the majority leader,” Ward said at a press conference following the decision. “It will be a challenge. … We have an economy that is trying to buzz along. We are still faced with covid-19 challenges for those businesses that are struggling. We have a lot of work to do.”
Corman praised Ward.
“That is a tremendous achievement on her part, and she didn’t achieve it because she’s a woman, she achieved it because she’s a great senator,” the Centre County Republican said.
As majority leader, Ward will oversee the legislative agenda, chair the Senate Rules and Executive Nomination Committee and help shape party strategy, according to the announcement.
In an interview with the Tribune-Review, Ward said her priorities are focused on the budget, redistricting and building relations between members of the state House and Senate in order to utilize the diverse backgrounds of all members of the state government, while working on bipartisan issues that can help Pennsylvanians.
Ward also said her focus is on “holding the Wolf administration accountable both throughout the covid-19 pandemic and during the election.”
“We need to get back on track and make sure that we hold them accountable and we do that with a common voice so that the people that we represent understand what’s at stake here,” she said.
The appointment came after Ward’s successful campaign for a fourth term, in which she defeated Democrat Tay Waltenbaugh with nearly 68% of the vote in the Westmoreland County 39th District race.
Ward has been a state senator since 2008, and was the first woman to represent the 39th District, which covers most of the county.
She joined GOP Senate leadership last year when she was named chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, again becoming the first woman to hold the role.
Ward got her start in politics in 1994 as county chair for Republican Rick Santorum’s successful campaign for the U.S. Senate, then served as a Hempfield supervisor from 2002-07. She was elected as a county commissioner in 2008, a position she held briefly before running for Senate.
“If you’re strong, you stand up for what’s right and you are willing to fight for what you think and what you believe you can do whatever you want to do whether you’re a woman or a man,” Ward said. “We have to fight a little harder here on this side of the gender horizon. Just fight, stay focused on your goals, don’t take your eye off it and go and you’ll get there.”