Dems sweep state row office seats for second election cycle

Dems sweep state row office seats for second election cycle

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Josh Shapiro pulled out a clear win over opponent state Sen. John Rafferty, R-Montgomery, in their race to bring integrity back to the Office of Attorney General.

“Friends, I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving me your trust and giving me this great honor,” said Shapiro, a Montgomery County Commissioner.

After an expensive run in which the candidates focused greatly on distancing themselves from their predecessor Kathleen Kane, Shapiro beat Rafferty 51.4 to 48.6 percent.

Shapiro’s Democratic comrades for row offices also had a successful election night.

For the second election cycle in a row, all three Democratic candidates for state row offices swept the race, keeping their Democratic stronghold in executive offices.

Incumbent Auditor General Eugene DePasquale held on to his seat in his race against Northampton County Executive John Brown and Joseph Torsella, a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, defeated his opponent Otto Voit, president of Keystone Dental Group, in the race for state Treasurer.

These down-ballot wins come on the heels of a presidential upset that resulted in a win for Republican Donald Trump and another term for incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Pat Toomey.

Pennsylvania helped push Trump to 270 electoral votes, winning 48.8 to 47.7 percent over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

The GOP-led state Legislature also maintained its majority.

 

Attorney General’s race

Though he spent much of the night in a nearby room one of his interns called “the war room,” Shapiro didn’t have much to worry about throughout the course of Election Night.

He was ahead of his Republican opponent from the time results came trickling in to the Pennsylvania Department of State website around 8:30 p.m.

At the close of reporting, Shapiro claimed wins across Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia County, Allegheny County, and Montgomery County, his home county.

He surpassed Rafferty by more than 160,000 votes, according to unofficial results.

His campaign was aided with outstanding campaign fundraising efforts and endorsements from President Barack Obama and Gov. Tom Wolf.

Shapiro raked in more than $6 million over his 10-month campaign, according to state records dating up to October 24, the most of any candidate in the history of Office of Attorney General.

Rafferty raised $1.7 million in the same timeframe.

The Democratic commissioner, who also served as a state representative from 2005 to 2012, will replace Bruce Beemer, the acting Attorney General who was appointed by Gov. Tom Wolf in August after Kane resigned.

Kane, the first Democrat and woman elected to the post, resigned from the Office of Attorney General just two days after she was found guilty of perjury and obstruction related to her leaking confidential grand jury information. She was sentenced to 10 to 23 months in prison in October.

Kane won her seat in 2012 with 56 percent of the vote, beating her GOP opponent by almost 15 percentage points.

Both Shapiro and his opponent worked to distance themselves from Kane and made rooting out public corruption a crux of their campaigns.

Shapiro made a commitment to require all OAG employees sign a code of conduct and participate in mandatory ethics training, to enforce a gift ban in the office and to appoint a Chief Diversity Officer to “make sure our team reflects the people of Pennsylvania,” he told Capitolwire following his victory

Shapiro’s opponent often highlighted Shapiro’s prosecutorial inexperience throughout the campaign, but clearly, that wasn’t a concern for voters.

Rafferty served in the OAG as Deputy Attorney General from 1988 to 1991, where he led the Criminal Law Division and Grand Jury Investigations.

Throughout the course of the campaign, Rafferty also called into question Shapiro’s commitment to serving out his tenure if elected, accusing the Democrat of trying to use the Office of Attorney General as a springboard for higher office.

“I believe that he has higher aspirations. The Office of Attorney General should not be a rental space. It should not be a stepping stone,” Rafferty said during an October debate.

Though he has set the record straight in prior interviews, Shapiro reiterated at the debate that if elected, he will serve out his full term and will likely run for a second term.

In January, Shapiro will take his seat in Office of Attorney General, but until then, he said he plans to celebrate his win with his four children and wife.

Auditor General’s race

The only incumbent row office candidate also took away a victory on Nov. 8.

Incumbent Auditor General Eugene DePasquale held on to his seat in a race against Northampton County Executive John Brown, winning 50 to 45 percent, with third-party candidates John Sweeney, of the Green Party, and Libertarian Roy Minet receiving 2.71 and 2.22 percent of the vote.

With 49.7 percent of the vote, DePasquale, of York County, was first elected in 2012 by 180,798 votes, 3.3 percentage points, above his opponent.

As Auditor General, DePasquale has headed a number of audits into charter schools, the Philadelphia Parking Authority, the state’s child abuse hotline and state pension funds. He previously served as a state representative.

Treasurer’s race

In the race to be the state’s next top fiscal watchdog, the Democratic nominee Joseph Torsella also took the win.

He had a distant lead, 50.7 – 44.2 percent, over his Republican challenger Otto Voit.

In an office plagued with corruption – the last elected state Treasurer Rob McCord pled guilty to federal charges of extortion in February 2015 and former state Treasurer Barbara Hafer facing charges of making false statement to federal authorities – Torsella’s campaign emphasized the need for transparency and integrity in the office, including investing in open data records.

He also pledged to work to establish automatic college or vocational training savings accounts for Pennsylvania’s youth and address retirement security for workers.

He will replace Timothy Reese, an Independent who was appointed by Gov. Wolf following McCord’s resignation. Reese did not seek election.

Torsella’s other challengers – Green Party Kristin Combs and Libertarian James Babb – drew 2.87 and 2.28 percent of the vote.

As state Treasurer, Torsella will oversee more than $100 billion in state assets, the state’s investments and payments and he will sit on the two public employee pension agencies.