The Pennsylvania Democratic Party wants state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta to be the state’s next auditor general.
The Philadelphia County lawmaker, first elected to the legislature in 2018 and reelected last year, overwhelmingly secured the party’s endorsement over the weekend at its winter meeting in Harrisburg. He’s the first openly gay Black candidate endorsed for auditor general.
“Malcolm is a friend, a colleague, and a transformational leader,” said state party chairman state Sen. Sharif Street in the endorsement announcement. “He brings a clear vision, undisputed work ethic, and the energy our party needs to win big next year.”
Kenyatta, who sits on the House Commerce, Finance, Judiciary, Liquor Control, and State Government Committees, has set big goals should he win the office.
“I’ll rebuild the Bureau of School Audits, which has been dismantled by the incumbent,” said Kenyatta, referencing Republican Auditor General Timothy DeFoor.
DeFoor transferred school audit responsibility back to the Department of Education last year, saying it was important for auditors to “focus on the work we are required by law to perform.” DeFoor added staffing issues meant it would take seven years to complete a single school audit, raising worries that results would be outdated.
The decision to end audits enraged Kenyatta, who said last March the decision made no sense because “we have nobody checking to make sure people driving our kids to school every day have the proper license. I will fix that problem.”
Kenyatta also vowed to help working families. “We’ll create a Bureau of Labor and Worker Protections and use every tool at my disposal to stand up for organized labor and working people. I know in my bones the impact of a government program that works or doesn’t. I’ll be the bold watchdog and public advocate that we need.”
He faces Lehigh County Controller Mark Pinsley and state Rep. Mark Rozzi (D-Berks) in the Democratic primary.
Pinsley was reelected last month to a second term. He has also criticized DeFoor’s school audit decision and accused him of trying to privatize education.
Rozzi, who served briefly as speaker of the House earlier this year, said he plans to run as a centrist. The Berks County Democrat’s campaign appears focused on Rozzi’s push for “good government reform.”
Pinsley and Rozzi’s resumes weren’t enough to convince the state party for an endorsement. Political observers weren’t surprised.
“I expected the Democrats to endorse Rep. Kenyatta,” Jeff Jubelirer of Bellevue Communications Group told DVJournal. “He proved himself to be a strong campaigner and team player once he withdrew from the 2022 U.S. Senate primary. During the campaign and as a state legislator, Kenyatta has made inroads across the commonwealth and is one of the party’s rising stars.”
Republican consultant Charlie Gerow, with Quantum Communications, said Kenyatta is “a Marxist for crying out loud,” said Gerow. “That’s where the Democratic Party is right now. It’s identity politics. He’s African American. He’s gay. He checks all the boxes. That’s what they’re looking for, not competency. That guy’s got no business running for auditor general.”
The Pennsylvania Democratic Party also endorsed President Joe Biden and incumbent U.S. Sen. Bob Casey for reelection.
Whoever wins will almost certainly face DeFoor, the first African American to be elected to a statewide position in Pennsylvania. The Republican told DVJournal that he has “always known what he wanted to do… I’m an auditor.”
He portrayed the auditor general as a nonpartisan office that follows the fiscal code. “Anybody receiving state funds,” DeFoor said, noting that designation covers state departments, semi-government agencies, and taxpayer-funded outside organizations. “It is our responsibility that the funds they receive are being spent the way they’re supposed to be spent.”
The Attorney General’s Office also reviews state programs to ensure they are run efficiently, including last year’s audit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. That financial review discovered the turnpike racked up debt due to its $450 million annual payment to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). Those payments were lowered to $50 million.
DeFoor is running unopposed in the Republican primary.