One overriding challenge for Pennsylvania’s next treasurer will be freeing the office from the taint of corruption that hangs over much of state government.
The last elected treasurer, Rob McCord, resigned in 2015 before pleading guilty to attempting to extort campaign contributions during his unsuccessful run for governor. McCord’s tenure is also central to a federal bribery case against a Chester County businessman who served as a middleman between the state and investment management firms.
The good news is that voters in this election have a choice between two promising candidates who offer sound ideas for cleaning up the office and extending its reach. The current appointed treasurer, Timothy A. Reese, did not seek his own term.
The race pits Republican nominee Otto Voit, 58, of Berks County, against Democrat Joe Torsella, 53, of Montgomery County. After interviewing both men and examining their ideas and experience, the Erie Times-News endorses Torsella for the post.
The candidates have some things in common. And each has relevant experience and makes a sound case for himself.
Both have promising plans for increasing the transparency of the office and its dealings via online databases.
Both favor moving most of the state’s assets into “passive investing” to sharply reduce fees and stabilize returns.
Both offer useful proposals to promote financial literacy among Pennsylvanians as one means to upward mobility.
What also separated Torsella was his varied experience in steering public institutions through difficult circumstances. Voit’s background in business and service on his community’s school board and with the Pennsylvania School Boards Association qualify him, but Torsella’s resume aligns better with the job.
That includes service in the early 1990s as deputy mayor of Philadelphia, helping then-Mayor Ed Rendell turn around the city, which included taking on some entrenched Democratic interests.
He also served as founding chief executive of the National Constitution Center, chairman of the Pennsylvania Board of Education, and as a U.S. representative at the United Nations, where he focused on cost control and transparency.
Whichever candidate voters choose on Tuesday, job one is restoring public trust in the office and building a culture of transparency, ethics and checks and balances that will sustain it. Pennsylvania’s entrenched culture of corruption must be rooted out one office at a time.