Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Pa. Treasurer Joe Torsella has lost his reelection bid, in a big upset by Republican Stacy Garrity

Torsella, a Montgomery County Democrat who had aspirations for higher office, has conceded.

Pennsylvania Treasurer Joe Torsella at Famous 4th Street Delicatessen on Election Day in Philadelphia on Nov. 5, 2019.
Pennsylvania Treasurer Joe Torsella at Famous 4th Street Delicatessen on Election Day in Philadelphia on Nov. 5, 2019.Read moreDAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer

Pennsylvania Treasurer Joe Torsella, a Montgomery County Democrat who had aspirations for higher office, has conceded in his reelection bid against Republican Stacy Garrity.

Torsella announced in a video Tuesday that he was conceding the race, though the Associated Press had not declared a winner. Garrity was leading by about 78,000 votes as of Tuesday evening, according to unofficial results. Some ballots had yet to be counted, but they were unlikely to change the outcome.

“I’m truly honored by the faith Pennsylvanians have placed in me, and I promise not to let them down,” Garrity said in a statement.

Torsella’s loss marks the first time since 1994 that a Republican beat an incumbent Democratic statewide officeholder and caps a brutal election cycle for Pennsylvania Democrats in down-ballot races. It also has implications for the 2022 midterm elections: He was considered a likely contender for governor or U.S. Senate. Torsella could still run, but his defeat leaves him politically weakened.

Mark Harris, a GOP strategist based in the Pittsburgh area, said Torsella’s loss was a blow to Democrats’ hopes in 2022 statewide races.

“Joe Torsella thought he was going to be a Senate candidate,” Harris said. “The Democratic bench got thinned a fair amount. That has long-term implications. We have a lot of great new Republicans on the bench.”

The treasurer’s office oversees more than $100 billion in state funds, through investments, deposits, and spending. The treasurer makes an annual salary of $167,838.

Torsella served as the U.S. representative to the United Nations for budget and management reform during the Obama administration. He also twice served as president of the National Constitution Center. Garrity is a retired U.S. Army Reserves colonel from Bradford County, whose 30 years of service included three tours in Iraq.

“In the Army, we lived by the most fundamental American values — honesty, integrity and selfless service — and I think Harrisburg can use some of those values," Garrity said in a statement Tuesday. "As treasurer, I will focus on holding government accountable for all taxpayers and making sure the treasurer’s office works for all Pennsylvanians, regardless of party.”

Torsella’s campaign spent $1.8 million on the race, compared with just $217,000 by Garrity’s campaign, according to campaign finance records.

“Like anyone who runs for elected office, I really wanted to win my race,” Torsella said in the video. “And I’m really disappointed that I didn’t. It’s hard to lose, and especially heartbreaking when it looks like it’s going to be by such a tiny margin.”

Speaking at a Donald Trump rally in Lancaster County six days before the election, Garrity described her home of Bradford County, on the New York border, as “a place where we all know each other, we all like each other, we stand for the [national] anthem, we kneel to pray, and when we get back up we look out for one another.”

Garrity also told the crowd about her career at Global Tungsten & Powders in Towanda, where she was vice president for government affairs, which she described as “the largest tungsten smelter in the Western world.”

She lamented that the firm now has just a third of its onetime 1,500 employees, saying that those jobs had moved to China in the last 20 years but that she had faith Trump would bring them back.

Torsella, who served as a top aide to then-Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell in the 1990s, briefly ran for U.S. Senate in 2010 and was said to be considering another run in two years — or a run for governor.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Montgomery County Democrat who won reelection last week, is widely expected to run for governor. Among those said to be considering a run for U.S. Senate are Reps. Chrissy Houlahan, of Chester County, and Conor Lamb, of Allegheny County.

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has said he might run for either office.

Republicans also won the open seat for state auditor general, as Dauphin County Controller Timothy DeFoor defeated Philadelphia Democrat Nina Ahmad, a former aide to Mayor Jim Kenney.

It was the first time the party won a statewide row office since Tom Corbett was elected attorney general in 2008.

And the party successfully defended its majorities in the state House and Senate, as incumbents won reelection in suburban districts even though Trump got thumped by Joe Biden in those areas.

“I think in the next two years as we gear up for a Senate race and governor’s race, there is a clear model of what the Republican Party needs to do to continue to be the governing party of Pennsylvania,” Harris said.

“I think the question for both parties is: Is it easier for Republicans to scrap back suburbanites, or is it easier for Democrats to bring home more of the working-class folks?” he added.

Joe Foster, chair of the Montgomery County Democrats, said the party had “lost some races we never thought we would lose, lost races we had high hopes on, and one of them is Joe Torsella.”

“His loss," he said, “is one of many conversations that we’re having now as a party.”