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Erin McClelland wins Democratic primary for Pa. treasurer, will face Republican Stacy Garrity this fall

McClelland defeated her Democratic primary opponent Ryan Bizzarro to win the party’s nod for state treasurer. She’ll face Garrity, the incumbent, in November.

  • Angela Couloumbis/Spotlight PA
Treasurer candidates Stacy Garrity (Republican) and Erin McClelland (Democrat)

 Courtesy candidate Facebook pages

Treasurer candidates Stacy Garrity (Republican) and Erin McClelland (Democrat)

This story was updated to correct that Stacy Garrity ran unopposed in her primary.

Spotlight PA is an independent, nonpartisan, and nonprofit newsroom producing investigative and public-service journalism that holds power to account and drives positive change in Pennsylvania.

Small-business owner Erin McClelland won Tuesday’s primary election to snag the Democratic nomination for Pennsylvania treasurer, a surprise victory that sets the stage for a tough matchup this fall with incumbent Republican Stacy Garrity.

The Associated Press called the race for McClelland at 10:11 p.m. Unofficial results show McClelland with 56% of the vote to opponent Ryan Bizzarro’s 44%.

McClelland won Tuesday’s election without the endorsement of the state Democratic Party — it backed Bizzarro, a state representative from Erie. Bizzarro also significantly outraised McClelland, a former substance abuse counselor and project manager for the Allegheny County Department of Human Services.

On the GOP side, Garrity ran unopposed for a second four-year term.

Normally a low-profile race in a presidential election year, this primary campaign for treasurer featured heightened rhetoric as well as thorny questions over mistakes in how McClelland filed political fundraising reports.

The Pennsylvania Treasury does not make or decide policy on voting, reproductive rights, or other high-profile issues. Instead, the office is the custodian of more than $150 billion in state funds and directs the investment of billions in state savings.

It also manages or administers several high-profile programs, including the college and career savings program and the state’s unclaimed property program. The latter in particular became a focus of debate during the primary campaign.

During her tenure, Garrity has taken credit for upgrading and fast-tracking the program to make it easier for Pennsylvanians to find out if they have unclaimed money (for instance, a refund check that wasn’t cashed or a gift card that wasn’t used) and reunite them with that cash after filing a claim.

Bizzarro has countered that Garrity’s changes to the program are overblown, and her claim of improving it misleading.

The race between Garrity and McClelland is expected to intensify in the countdown to the November election. Democrats hope to reclaim the row office they lost in 2020, when Garrity defeated then-incumbent Democratic state Treasurer Joe Torsella in a major upset.

Torsella’s campaign spent more than $1.8 million on that year’s race, compared to Garrity’s $217,000.

This year, Garrity is entering the race with a far more padded campaign bank account.

As of April 8, the latest campaign finance data available, Garrity had just over $638,340 in the bank. Because she had no opponent in the primary, she was able to save much of her cash for the general election.

Among Democrats, Bizzarro had a clear fundraising advantage.

Between the start of the year and April 8, Bizzarro raised just shy of $250,000 and had $260,557 in his campaign account.

McClelland, in contrast, raised $5,986 since the start of the year and had $87,629 in her account as of April 8 (this after loaning her campaign $100,000 of her own money).

It is not yet certain if any third-party candidates will be on the ballot for the treasurer’s race. Those candidates have until August to gather signatures to have their names listed on the ballot.

So far, the Forward Party has said it intends to jump into the race. The party describes itself as a landing ground for moderate candidates who do not align with their party’s more progressive or conservative-leaning ideas.

For treasurer, the party wants to run Chris Foster, a former Democrat from Allegheny County who has spent most of his career as a tennis pro.

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