Starting with this article, I’ll be going through the row offices up in states up this cycle. We’ll start with my home state of Pennsylvania. The three Pennsylvania row offices are all up for election every presidential year. These positions are the Attorney General, Treasurer, and Auditor General, all currently held by Democrats.
- Incumbent: Josh Shapiro (D)
- Challenger: Heather Heidelbaugh (R)
- Rating: Likely Democratic
First-term incumbent Josh Shapiro, who was elected in a tight race in 2016, is running for re-election. Shapiro won thanks to high numbers in Philadelphia and its collar counties. Shapiro was a Montgomery County Commissioner before this race, and his connections to the area paid off.
Shapiro’s star has only grown since his 2016 victory. His high-profile fights against the Trump administration’s travel ban increased his popularity among Democrats. He also garnered praise for his toughness on abusers in the Catholic Church as the case made national headlines. This has put him in a strong position for re-election, especially in what looks to be a very good Democratic year in Pennsylvania.
The GOP has a credible candidate in Heather Heidelbaugh, a trial lawyer and former Allegheny County Council member. She was unopposed for the GOP nomination. Being from Allegheny County would usually be a good thing for a Republican, but Shapiro has amassed popularity in the area because of the investigation against abusive Catholic Churches in Pittsburgh. Shapiro also run up big margins in Philadelphia and its collar counties, Because of this, I rate this race as Likely Democratic.
- Incumbent: Joe Torsella (D)
- Challenger: Stacey Garrity (R)
- Rating: Safe Democratic
The winner of the Treasurer race in 2016 was always going to have to clean up the office. Two of the past three officeholders, Barbara Hafer and Rob McCord, were accused of corruption. McCord even had to resign in 2015 because of extortion charges levied against him.
For his part, Torsella has spent most of his time restoring the image of the office. Within his first week, he placed a ban on third-party placement agents and gave back half of the office’s vehicles. Torsella also earned recognition for his creation of the Transparency Portal. With this portal, constituents can see live updates on how the Treasury spends its money.
Republicans nominated a somewhat lackluster candidate in Stacey Garrity. While Garrity served our country admirably as a member of our armed forces, earning two bronze stars, her background isn’t a good fit for the Treasurer’s office. Making matters worse, Torsella was the best-performing statewide Democrat in 2016 by margin of victory. Because of his impressive electoral record and popularity in office, I rate this race as Safe Democratic.
- Incumbent: Eugene DePasquale (D) (term-limited)
- Democratic nominee: Nina Ahmad
- Republican nominee: Tim DeFoor
- Rating: Leans Democratic
The open Auditor General race is by far the most interesting of the Pennsylvania row offices. Eugene DePasquale, the only member of the 2012 Democratic sweep who wasn’t pushed out for corruption, is term-limited. DePasquale is now running for Congress in the swingy PA-10.
In the race to replace him, the GOP nominated their best candidate of the bunch. Tim DeFoor is a Dauphin County Controller who was unopposed in the primary. DeFoor, who is African-American, is the only candidate in the race who has job experience similar to the work of the Auditor General. Being from Dauphin County is also a help to him electorally, as the region has become a critical battleground in contemporary Pennsylvania elections.
His Democratic opponent is their weakest nominee of the three offices. Most of the Democratic establishment in the state had gotten behind Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb, a moderate and uncle of PA-17 Representative Conor Lamb. Observers considered him the favorite, but Nina Ahmad was able to pull off an upset. Her strong victories in Philadelphia, Montgomery, and Delaware counties carried her to victory.
Ahmad is considerably less qualified than Lamb was, and she is from Philadelphia County, where Democrats already get huge margins, which puts her at a disadvantage. This gives DeFoor an opening in western Pennsylvania, where larger margins would pave the way for a GOP victory. Either winner would create history as well, as whoever wins would be the first person of color to serve statewide in Pennsylvania.
I believe this will be the closest of the Pennsylvania row offices. Not only is there no incumbent, but DeFoor seems to have an opening for crossover votes. His name recognition in Dauphin County could play a major role, where a GOP win would a key part of a statewide victory. However, the low name recognition for both candidates and the current large lead for Joe Biden puts this race at Lean Democratic.