Winners & Losers

Winners & Losers for 2023

In a year with no shortage of ups and downs, these were the highest highs and lowest lows to grace our pages over the past 12 months.

Joanna McClinton

Joanna McClinton Commonwealth Media Services

After 52 weeks of covering the victors and the vanquished, the champions and the also-rans, the heroes and villains of Pennsylvania politics, there was an embarrassment of riches to choose from – literally: More than 100 winners and 100 losers have graced our weekly print and online feature. Here are some of our favorites.


Josh Shapiro / Shapiro for Pennsylvania

Josh Shapiro

After stepping into office in January, Gov. Josh Shapiro received bipartisan support for his first budget proposal, which doled out funding for education, state police and property tax rebates. He won plenty of accolades in June for his handling of the I-95 disaster in Philadelphia; a summer poll from Franklin & Marshall College, voters gave Shapiro the highest performance rating for a governor in two decades; and he seems to have found his footing with the GOP in Harrisburg.

Joanna McClinton, Kim Ward, Sara Innamorato & Cherelle Parker / PA House Democratic Caucus; PA Senate Republican Caucus; Friends of Sara; People for Parker

Women in charge

Do we even need to ask who run the world? This year, Joanna McClinton was elected Speaker of the state House of Representatives, becoming the first woman – and woman of color – to do so. Kim Ward became the first woman to serve as Senate President Pro Tempore, and the first female majority leader of either chamber in the General Assembly. Former state Rep. Sara Innamorato won her race for Allegheny County executive, and will be the first woman in that role. And in Philly, Cherelle Parker will become the city’s first female mayor in a matter of weeks. 

K9 Rom / Pennsylvania State Police


Man’s best friend had a doggone good run this year. We saw an update to the state’s Dog Law, which advocates had pushed for in order to boost funding to the bureau responsible for overseeing kennels, breeders and pup-related issues. In September, K9 Rom of the Pennsylvania State Police was part of a team that sniffed out Danilo Cavalcante after law enforcement spent weeks searching for the escaped murderer – and last month, Rom was even honored at the National Dog Show in Montgomery County. And we featured our lawmakers’ good boys and girls this summer, a nod we think is almost as good as a belly rub.


Keystone Generating Station behind Elderton Cemetery / Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images


The state’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, established to combat air pollution in New England and mid-Atlantic states, remained a mess without a cleanup this year. A working group assembled by Gov. Josh Shapiro couldn’t reach a clear consensus on whether to join RGGI, a process initiated by then-Gov. Tom Wolf in 2019. Two Commonwealth Court decisions filed last month blocked the state from entering the program, seemingly bringing an end to the saga. But the Shapiro administration, which has previously considered alternatives to RGGI, recently announced that it is appealing the lower court’s decision. 

Mike Zabel / Office of Governor Tom Wolf

Mayors and municipal officials

Those standing out for the wrong reasons include Stroudsburg Mayor Michael Moreno and McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko faced arrest for driving under the influence and public drunkenness, respectively. Other officials were in hot water for making threats against colleagues or employees, including outgoing Philadelphia Register of Wills Tracey Gordon and Chester Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland. Some had election-related trouble: Former Philly mayoral candidate Jeff Brown was accused of violating campaign finance law; former Shamokin City Councilmember Joseph Leschinskie was ousted due to several felony convictions; and the state Supreme Court ruled against Fulton County Commissioners Stuart Ulsh and Randy Bunch for secretly allowing third-party access to the county’s voting machines. And sexual misconduct scandals involving Shapiro aide Mike Vereb and former Rep. Mike Zabel shook Harrisburg. Hands to yourselves in 2024, please.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaking at the Moms for Liberty Joyful Warriors national summit in Philadelphia / Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Moms for Liberty

The self-described “parental rights” organization expanded its presence in Pennsylvania in the past two years – but fell short in high-profile school board races in November. Democrats swept key races across the state, including all five open seats in Central Bucks County, where Republicans previously approved a Moms for Liberty-backed policy allowing requests for book bans in school libraries. M4L was also designated as an extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center earlier this year, and drew outrage from several Philadelphia leaders upon holding their second national summit in the Democratic stronghold.