Philadelphia state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta was caught on video saying his opponent in the auditor general race, Lehigh County Controller Mark Pinsley, “don’t like Black people.”

Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia) was at the home of a Philadelphia committeewoman seeking support for his campaigns. Kenyatta, first elected to the House in 2018, is also running for reelection as a state representative. He has two primary challengers in the state representative race and one, Lehigh County Controller Mark Pinsley, in the auditor general primary on April 23.

The video, from a Ring system, was posted to Facebook by Lewis Nash Sr., who is running against Kenyatta for state representative. The committeewoman, Jacqueline Jones, whose Ring system recorded Kenyatta, is the former mother-in-law of Jon Hankins, who was also running against Kenyatta in the legislative seat race. Hankins also posted the video to social media.

On it, Kenyatta told Jones, “So, for auditor general in the primary, I don’t think we have an opponent, and what I had said. No, we know you don’t have an opponent. I hope so. We witnessed it. There’s the guy Mark Pinsley, who I told you don’t like Black people. So we’ll see if he can get on the ballot. I have no idea. He’s from the Lehigh Valley.”

Pinsley, who is White, told DVJournal he’s angry about Kenyatta’s unfounded attempt to smear him as a racist. He called his statements “fallacious, divisive, and Trumpian.”

And he said he believes it’s part of Kenyatta’s campaign strategy to win the primary.

“He called me a racist twice in the same time frame,” Pinsley said. “Obviously, my expectation is that he’s not just saying it to one woman, that he’s going around saying it to others.”

Pinsley said there is “no truth” in Kenyatta’s allegation of racism.

“Once again, Rep. Kenyatta has shown he lacks the maturity or integrity to hold this position and continues to engage in dangerous rhetoric. He has refused to acknowledge how unacceptable his behavior was and has responded with arrogance. His language has no place in the Democratic Party. Furthermore, Rep. Kenyatta has proven that he will be incapable of winning a general election against the incumbent auditor general in the fall.”

When asked for a comment, Kenyatta’s campaign sent a statement he made to another publication: “I’m running for auditor general to make our government work for all families. I won’t be distracted by dirty political tricks. I look forward to Mark’s endorsement in the general election.”

Kenyatta’s also playing hardball with his fellow Democrats who were running for state representative.

Hankins said Kenyatta asked Jones to withdraw her support from Hankins in that race and to endorse Kenyatta for both positions.

“He accused Mark Pinsley of being racist,” Hankins confirmed.

Kenyatta’s campaign responded by challenging Hankins’ signatures on petitions and claiming he had not lived in the district long enough to run. A  judge ruled in Kenyatta’s favor.

“I could appeal it, but I’m recently engaged,” he said. Campaigning is “hard on a relationship. I’m going to choose love and God.”

Hankins, a Democratic state committeeman, has withdrawn his support for Kenyatta in the auditor general race and is now backing Pinsley.

The auditor general is the commonwealth’s chief fiscal officer. He or she audits entities that spend public money, ranging from state agencies to municipal governments to public sector unions. Campaigns for the office rarely generate as much press as the 2024 race has already.

For example, DVJournal asked Pinsley about media reports that some of the signatures on his petitions, including a Chester County judge’s name, were invalid.

“There was not a single objection to any one of our signatures other than through the media,” said Pinsley. “Signatures were gathered by volunteers who stood outside businesses and asked people to sign. You’re not asking for ID. You’re just asking for signatures. Would (a volunteer) know that somebody came up and wrote somebody else’s name? It’s a lot of foolishness. That’s why when you get signatures, you try to get twice as many as you need.”

One likely reason for the additional attention is that the office is currently held by an incumbent Republican, Timothy DeFoor. From the U.S. Senate to the state Supreme Court, Democrats have been racking up wins in statewide elections.

Another reason for increased interest is Kenyatta’s presence in the race. The Philadelphia Democrat is considered a rising star in his party, and he’s been called on to campaign for President Joe Biden. He ran for the U.S. Senate, losing in the primary to now Sen. John Fetterman in 2022.

Pinsley offered to debate Kenyatta three times before the April 23 primary, but Kenyatta did not agree.

Pinsley said he’s proud of his work as the Lehigh County Controller. He audited and reported on the county’s healthcare program and found $9 million in savings over three years.

“These same savings can be done on the state level,” said Pinsley. “The state spends billions of dollars on healthcare for its employees.”

In another case, he discovered a doctor was diagnosing many more cases of Munchausen by proxy (where a parent claims their child is sick to get attention) than was statistically possible. Those diagnoses resulted in children being removed from their homes. His report resulted in the doctor being removed from her position and multiple families suing.

Another audit found that for every dollar the county prison charged for inmates to make phone calls, 70 cents went to the county, resulting in $750,000 from prisoner phone calls.

“That’s not even the prisoner paying. It’s their loved ones, right?” he said.

Being an auditor is “not necessarily Republican or Democrat. It’s about looking at the numbers and trying to find savings or finding things that are wrong.”

“I’m focused on running a campaign about the transformative power of the Auditor General’s Office and how it can positively impact the lives of people in our state. It’s shameful that Mr. Kenyatta can’t make a case for his own campaign and must resort to personally attacking me. I am the only Democrat running for auditor general who has done the job and done so against powerful institutions. Pennsylvanians deserve to hear Rep. Kenyatta’s rationale for his toxic campaign tactics.”

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