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Schwartzkopf steps down as Delaware House Speaker, Longhurst rises to replace him

Longtime House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf stepped down on Friday to make way for state Rep. Valerie Longhurst to take his place.

Schwarzkopf has served in Delaware’s General Assembly for more than two decades; he has held the Speaker’s chair for eleven of those years.

But on Friday, Schwarzkopf confirmed a rumor that had swirled in the General Assembly for weeks.

“Tonight will be my last night as speaker of the House," he told the crowd assembled in the House chambers, including a dozen of his family members. "I have decided to step down as speaker. However, I have an obligation to the fourteenth district and I will fulfill that obligation to serve out the rest of my term.”

Schwarzkopf explained that after his wife was hospitalized for symptoms of Long COVID last year, he reconsidered his priorities. By stepping out of leadership and retiring after his current term, he hopes to spend more time with his family.

Schwartzkopf added that he planned his resignation before running for House Speaker earlier this year, intending to serve only part of the two-year term.

House Democrats elected Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst to take over as Speaker. She is the first woman to preside over the Delaware House – a moment she identifies as part of a broader shift in the makeup of the General Assembly.

“Over the past two decades, I have been proud to watch the progress we’ve made as a body as we’ve become more representative of our state," she said. "This chamber has filled with more women, more people of color and more open members of the LGBTQ community.”

Rep. Melissa Minor-Brown replaces her as House Majority Leader, becoming the first Black lawmaker to hold that role.

Democrats chose Freshman Rep. Kerri Evelyn Harris to replace Minor-Brown as the House Majority Whip; Harris is the first openly queer person to hold a leadership role in the House.

Together, the three form the first all-female leadership team in the history of Delaware's House.

Paul Kiefer comes to Delaware from Seattle, where he covered policing, prisons and public safety for the local news site PubliCola.