John Cole, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
December 17, 2023
HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Democratic Party endorsed state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia) for auditor general at its final state committee meeting before the pivotal 2024 election year. State Rep. Ryan Bizzarro (D-Erie) won the endorsement for state treasurer.
Kenyatta is the first openly gay Black man to be endorsed by the Pennsylvania Democratic Party for a statewide office.
He received 307 votes, while Lehigh County Controller Mark Pinsley received 31 votes.
Bizzarro also cleared the two-thirds threshold needed for the endorsement over Erin McClelland, a former small business owner from Allegheny County,.
Bizzarro and Kenyatta, lawmakers serving in the state House from opposite ends of the commonwealth, both won the party endorsement on the first ballot.
“It matters who your auditor general is,” Kenyatta said in a speech after winning the endorsement. “It matters because this is the one office in government that’s focused 24 hours a day, seven days a week on finding problems and bringing people together to fix it.”
He touted a message of unity going forward. “I hope that we can come together sooner rather than later because it’s going to put us in a stronger position to win,” Kenyatta told the Capital-Star following his endorsement.
Kenyatta is one of three Democrats running for auditor general; in addition to Pinsley, former state House Speaker Rep. Mark Rozzi (D-Berks) is also in the race.
Rozzi was not present at the meeting and was not nominated during the endorsement vote. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Capital-Star.
“I’ve always been a unifying candidate,” Bizzarro said in an interview with the Capital-Star following his endorsement. He added that he would have dropped out of the race if he had not been endorsed, and said that he’s happy to work with McClelland moving forward.
According to Bizzarro’s campaign, should he win the office, he would be the first statewide office holder from Erie County since Gov. Tom Ridge.
The winner of the Democratic Party primary for Auditor General will likely face Tim DeFoor, the Republican incumbent who appears to have a clear path to his party’s nomination. The winner of the Democratic Party nomination for Treasurer will most likely take on Republican incumbent Stacy Garrity.
DeFoor and Garrity were both endorsed by the Pennsylvania Republican Party earlier this year.
No attorney general endorsement
None of the five candidates for attorney general earned enough votes to receive the party endorsement.
The five candidates present were former Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer, state Rep. Jared Solomon (D-Philadelphia), former Bucks County solicitor and federal prosecutor Joe Khan, and former Philadelphia Chief Public Defender Keir Bradford-Grey.
On the first ballot, DePasquale led the way with 132 votes, followed by Bradford-Grey with 73 votes, Khan with 61 votes, Stollsteimer with 50 votes, and Solomon with 17 votes.
Solomon and Stollsteimer did not receive enough votes to advance to the second round of voting.
DePasquale also led the way on the second ballot, securing 164 votes, but falling short of the two-thirds needed to win the state party endorsement. Khan won 75 votes on the second ballot, while Bradford-Grey won 74 votes.
The 2024 race for attorney general is slated to be the only 2024 race in Pennsylvania with no incumbent on the ballot. Pennsylvania Attorney General Michele Henry, who was appointed by Gov. Josh Shapiro to finish out his term when he was elected governor, is not seeking reelection in 2024.
Like the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, Attorney General is the only statewide race that the Pennsylvania Republican Party did not endorse a candidate in, although that may change soon.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pennsylvania Republican Party will hold a virtual meeting on Jan. 22 to endorse a candidate for attorney general, with York County District Attorney Dave Sunday viewed as the frontrunner.
The Pennsylvania Democratic Party did provide two unanimous endorsements on Saturday, for President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey.
Casey said that it was currently a “very difficult time for the country,” and that workers’ and women’s rights are under threat. He also vowed to hold companies accountable for “greedflation” and spoke about the need for the U.S. Senate to pass legislation to make it more difficult for fentanyl to enter the United States.
While the state party painted an overall picture of unity, a proposed resolution on school vouchers showed the party isn’t totally united.
First reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer on Friday, the Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee was expected to approve a resolution “in opposition to private school vouchers,” during the weekend’s meeting in Harrisburg.
But during a reading of the Rules Committee report, chairman Micah Mahjoubian announced that during a meeting the day prior, the committee had voted to table the vote on the resolution.
Mahjoubian said that Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chair Sharif Street asked the committee to table the resolution after he received calls from the White House and the Democratic National Committee expressing concerns about appearing divided on the matter.
There was a back and forth on the floor of the meeting between Chuck Pascal, Armstrong County Democratic Party Chair, who is one of two sponsors of the resolution, and Chairman Street.
Pascal made a motion during the state committee meeting on Saturday to vote on the resolution, but did not have the two-thirds majority needed on the floor for it to be voted upon, according to a ruling from the chair.
Pascal said that the resolution opposing school vouchers would be consistent with the national Democratic Party and is in support of the Democratic lawmakers in the state House who shot down a school voucher proposal in the latest budget negotiations.
“This resolution is consistent with and does not cause disunity in the party,” Pascal said. “We are consistent with a national platform that says Democrats oppose the private school voucher system.”
Gov. Josh Shapiro has said he supports school vouchers, but delivered a line-item veto on it during the latest budget in the summer. However, Shapiro has remained vocal that he would like to pass a school voucher program in Pennsylvania.
“We are independently elected to represent the Democrats in our counties,” Pascal said in an interview with reporters prior to the meeting. “We’re not here to have a slavish agreement with any elected official.”
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