Pennsylvania has entered “the blue shift,” an expected phase in the 2020 election when President Donald Trump’s lead from in-person voting Tuesday erodes as more and more mail ballots cast for former Vice President Joe Biden are tallied.
In a state still too close to call, that shift could also tilt down-ballot races for state “row offices” — attorney general, treasurer, and auditor general.
Three Democrats, including two incumbents, trail in those races, with a quarter of the vote still to be tallied. More than 340,000 mail ballots, a form of voting more favored by Democrats than Republicans, still need to be counted, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State, which has already tallied more than 2,274,000 mail ballots.
As of Thursday afternoon:
Republican Heather Heidelbaugh trailed Democratic incumbent Attorney General Josh Shapiro by nearly 2 percentage points, a margin of more than 116,000 votes.
Republican Stacy Garrity led Democratic incumbent Treasurer Joe Torsella by more than 3 percentage points, a margin of more than 210,000 votes.
Republican Timothy DeFoor led Democrat Nina Ahmad by nearly 6 percentage points, a margin of more than 360,000 votes.
The pending results left experienced politicians uncertain Wednesday morning.
“To tell the truth, I don’t have the foggiest idea who won those three races,” said former Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat from Philadelphia.
“These offices are very important to Pennsylvania,” said former Gov. Tom Ridge, a Republican from Erie. “And frankly I’m not sure people on either side of the aisle paid enough attention to who is running and what they actually do.”
Shapiro, a likely candidate for governor in two years who is from Abington, seized the spotlight amid President Donald Trump’s legal and rhetorical attacks on voting in Pennsylvania.
Heidelbaugh, a Pittsburgh trial attorney, called on Shapiro to step aside from legal challenges about the election, accusing him of having a conflict of interest.
“We are encouraged by the early results of Tuesday’s vote, but it is essential that every legal vote be counted and that process be beyond question,” Heidelbaugh said in a statement. “That means Josh Shapiro cannot be seen as having his thumb on the scale, acting in dual roles as legal arbiter of the vote and a candidate deeply invested in its outcome."
A spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office said Wednesday that the office “assesses potential conflicts on all cases,” and noted that representing the Department of State is part of the attorney general’s job description under state law.
In a CNN interview Wednesday morning, Shapiro said: “The best way to settle this is to count, and to make sure that we have an accurate count, and that all legal, eligible votes are part of that process.”
Torsella, a Flourtown resident who might face Shapiro in the 2022 Democratic primary for governor but might opt instead to run for the U.S. Senate, cast himself as a reformer who upended a history of corruption in his office while taking on Wall Street. He called for patience Tuesday evening until the election’s final results are known.
Garrity, a retired U.S. Army Reserve colonel from Bradford County who served 30 years, including three tours in Iraq, campaigned as a cultural conservative.
Ahmad, a former deputy mayor in Philadelphia, used a considerable chunk of her own money to finance her race.
DeFoor, the Dauphin County controller, lagged Ahmad in resources until a political action committee known for pushing school-choice issues like charters and vouchers, Commonwealth Leaders Fund, invested $1.4 million into his campaign in October.
The seat was open because Auditor General Eugene DePasquale could not seek a third term.
Commonwealth Leaders Fund also spent almost $1.2 million to support Heidelbaugh’s bid for attorney general.