Torsella concedes Treasury race in another blow for Pa. Democrats

Joseph Torsella lost reelection for Pa. Treasurer. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Joseph Torsella lost reelection for Pa. Treasurer. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Democratic Treasurer Joe Torsella has conceded his reelection bid to Republican Stacy Garrity.

It’s the second row office election Democrats have lost this year, after sweeping seats for Treasurer, Auditor General and Attorney General in 2016.

Torsella kicked off his online concession video by wishing Garrity well, and noting that while he disagrees with her about a lot of policy issues, he’d offer his help and support.

“Public service is a privilege, not an entitlement,” he said. “The treasurer’s office belongs to the people of the commonwealth. And it looks like this time around they chose someone else for the job. It’s as simple as that.”

Garrity is a retired Army Reserve Colonel, who also worked as a vice president for government affairs at Global Tungsten & Powders Corp, a Bradford County tungsten smelting company. She ran on cutting government spending and called for fiscal transparency.

Speaking at a late October Trump rally in Lancaster, she promised not to authorize additional spending for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, and said Torsella doesn’t hold “rural Pennsylvania values.”

Torsella, who was a Rhodes Scholar, served as a Philly deputy mayor under Ed Rendell, became a United Nations ambassador, and was CEO of the National Constitution Center, pledged to keep up focus on his key priorities in his last months in office — specifically, trying to leverage state investments to get pharmaceutical companies to lower drug prices.

And he said that Keystone Scholars, a program his office started to give all kids a $100 starter deposit to a 529 plan account for college savings, was the initiative that had been “closest to my heart.”

Torsella also offered a note of optimism to progressive Democrats.

“Now, in the wake of an election where cynicism and division proved to be such potent political weapons, it is tempting to conclude that we Democrats ought to trim our sails,” he said. “But I think that’d be a terrible mistake.”

Torsella, who had been circulated as a possible Democratic candidate for Senate, noted he hoped to return to public service again following his loss.

But, he added, “If this winds up being the end of my time in government, I am grateful that my optimism has outlasted my career, and not the other way around,”

It was a disappointing election cycle for Democrats in many of Pennsylvania’s down-ballot races, and the row offices were no exception. Torsella’s defeat marks the first time since 1994 that an incumbent Democrat lost reelection for a statewide office seat.

Along with Treasury, Democrats lost the open Auditor seat held by Eugene DePasquale, who is term-limited and lost his own bid for Congress.

Democrat Josh Shapiro, however, was reelected as Attorney General.

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