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May 28, 2024 1:39 am

Local News

Kenyatta projected winner of Democratic nomination for auditor general

Malcolm Kenyatta (Credit: Kenyatta campaign/Pennsylvania Capital-Star)

John Cole, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
April 23, 2024

State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia) was the projected winner of the Democratic nomination for auditor general, the Associated Press reported Tuesday, defeating Lehigh County Controller Mark Pinsley. 

Kenyatta made history in 2018 by becoming the first openly LGBTQ+ person of color elected to the Pennsylvania General Assembly. He’s hoping to make history again in November by becoming the first Democrat of color to serve as the state’s auditor general. His projected nomination will mark the first time two Black auditor general candidates have faced off in the state’s general election, pitting him against incumbent Tim DeFoor.

Nearly two hours after the polls closed, Kenyatta addressed a group of supporters at the Divine Lorraine Hotel celebrating the victory. 

“Two years ago, many of you were with me in this exact same room with a much different outcome, but with the same simple belief that government can, should, and will work for working people and working families, period,” Kenyatta said. In 2022, Kenyatta ran for U.S. Senate, but finished third in the Democratic Party primary behind John Fetterman and Conor Lamb. 

He then thanked his husband, Dr. Matthew Kenyatta, who introduced him to the victory party and recognized the historic moment as Kenyatta became the first openly LGBTQ person of color to run as a statewide candidate in Pennsylvania.

While speaking to reporters after casting his ballot on Tuesday morning, he said that “it’s not everyday that a Black gay kid from North Philly gets to represent Pennsylvanians in this way,” and called it a “special moment” arguing a part of what it says is that people “just want competent, serious leadership.” 

Other organizations also celebrated the historic nature of Kenyatta’s victory. 

“Malcolm’s overwhelming victory in this race is a big deal,” said Ryan Matthews, Pennsylvania state director, Human Rights Campaign. “Not too long ago, the idea that a gay, Black man from Philadelphia would be the nominee for statewide office in Pennsylvania would have been unimaginable.” 

In 2020, DeFoor made history by becoming the first person of color to win statewide office in Pennsylvania during his victory for auditor general.

Since being elected to the state House, Kenyatta has become a well-known progressive voice in his caucus and has also been one of President Joe Biden’s surrogates on the campaign trail in and beyond the Keystone State.

“I didn’t run for auditor general just because I want somebody to call me auditor general,” Kenyatta said. “I ran for auditor general because I know what this role can do to make life better for you, to make life better for working people and working families who have given up on the electoral process.”

Although the office doesn’t often get the publicity that other statewide positions receive, Kenyatta made the case that it matters who is the state’s chief fiscal watchdog.

“The Auditor General is the one role in state government that’s about finding those pain points,” he said. “That’s about finding that disconnect of where our government should be working and when it’s not actually meeting people’s needs.”

Standing in front of campaign signs that read “Defeat DeFoor,” Kenyatta took direct jabs at the GOP incumbent for his previous comments made about the 2020 election and blasting him for receiving campaign contributions from Jeffrey Yass, a main donor to former President Donald Trump’s campaign. He also criticized DeFoor for closing down the Bureau of School Audits in the office and he promised to create a Bureau of Worker and Labor Protections.

Kenyatta claimed that he’s “in the tank for Pennsylvania working families.”

“So if you are well-off, and well connected, if you can afford an army of lobbyists, I’m not the auditor general for you,” Kenyatta said. 

The Pennsylvania Democratic Party endorsed Kenyatta’s candidacy in December, making it the first time it is formally supporting an openly gay Black man for statewide office. Kenyatta has also earned the backing of labor unions, and various elected Democratic elected officials. 

Kenyatta also thanked Lehigh County Controller Mark Pinsley and former House Speaker Mark Rozzi, who was previously a candidate for the seat, for their participation in the race and said he’s going to earn the votes of those who didn’t support him in the primary and unite the party against DeFoor. 

Pinsley sent out a social media post  Tuesday evening saying: “While this isn’t the result that I wanted, I want to thank all of my supporters, volunteers, and voters. I ran a campaign on my work as Lehigh County controller, and I will proudly continue that work. I look forward to getting President Bident reelected in the fall.”

Pinsley launched unsuccessful bids for state Senate in 2018 and 2022 in the Lehigh Valley and reportedly contemplated a run for lieutenant governor in 2021. 

The race flew under the radar in comparison with the spending and attention the open race for attorney general has garnered, with the exception of a controversy about comments made by Kenyatta captured on a Ring doorbell camera. 

Wendell Young, president of Local 1776 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, and Daniel Bauder, president of the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO, both celebrated Kenyatta’s victory. 

“I’m just thrilled to be here tonight to be supporting somebody who is, I don’t even think a rising star anymore,” Bauder said of Kenyatta, who is 33 years old. “I think you’re a star.” 

“I’m gonna kind of miss him being a legislator,” Young said, adding that he’s happy to support his campaign for auditor general, but will miss having his voice in the state House. 

“And now he’s going to take it louder on a bigger stage and he’s young enough that there’s more stages ahead,” Young said to applause.

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kim Lyons for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Pennsylvania Capital-Star under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.