Hi, this is Joe Torsella, and I’m here to share some news. Despite our efforts, it looks like when all the votes are finally tallied, our campaign will come up just a little bit short.
Like anyone who runs for elected office – I really wanted to win my race. And I’m really disappointed that I didn’t! It’s hard to lose, and especially heartbreaking when it looks like it’s gonna be by such a tiny margin.
But public service is a privilege, not an entitlement. The Treasurer’s office belongs to the people of the Commonwealth. And it looks like this time around, they chose someone else for the job. It’s as simple as that.
Stacy Garrity and I disagreed about a lot during this campaign during the campaign. But the campaign’s over. So, a little while ago, I called her to offer not just my congratulations, but also any help she might need as she prepares to inherit this important job. After all, I may not be a constitutional officer of the Commonwealth after January, but I will still be a taxpayer, which means I’ll have a stake in Stacy’s success just like every other Pennsylvanian. So I, and I hope you, wish her well as she takes up this new post of service.
That said, I still have two months left in my term, and I intend to use every single day to carry on the work we began four years ago – work I’m incredibly proud of.
When I first ran for this office, I said that the efficient and honorable management of our finances was just the beginning of what I wanted to accomplish. For me, there was something bigger at stake: the idea embodied in the first three words of our Constitution: “We, the People.” The idea that we’re all in this together, and that we should have each other’s backs, that we are one American family.
Over the last four years, we have brought integrity and transparency back to this office. But we’ve also used it to expand opportunity, to fight the rising tide of inequality, and strengthen families and communities across the Commonwealth.
We leveraged the power of our state’s finances to demand the Big Pharma companies pumping opioids into our state stop putting their profits ahead of the safety of our communities, and to hold Facebook accountable for undermining our privacy and our democracy.
We helped Pennsylvanians weather the storm of COVID by getting loans out to hospitals, forcing ventilator companies to help get life-saving equipment back in service, and relieving the pressure of rent payments and student loans.
And, maybe closest to my heart, we created Keystone accounts, making Pennsylvania the first large state in the country where every kid, in every zip code, gets a $100 automatic starter deposit to a 529 account at birth or adoption. So a whole generation of kids is going to start life knowing that we believe in them, every one of them.
I am proud of these accomplishments. I am proud of the entire Treasury staff that came into work every day to help me work towards that big idea: reclaiming our identity as the United States of America, reasserting Pennsylvania’s place in leading that union, and re-affirming the common purpose embodied in those three amazing words: “We, the People.”
Now, in the wake of an election where cynicism and division proved to be such potent political weapons, it’s tempting to conclude that we Democrats ought to trim our sails when it comes to that kind of stuff. But I think that’d be a terrible mistake.
For one thing, I don’t buy that people are as divided as some politicians wish we were. For all the selfishness in our politics, we the people have always been able to see the humanity in each other.
That’s why we don’t ask a neighbor in need who they voted for before we lend them a hand. That’s why we pay our taxes and shovel each other’s driveways. And it’s why, even in the darkness of this troubled year, we have been inspired by countless acts of sacrifice, and generosity, and community. We don’t just do this stuff because we’re nice people. We do it because it’s the only way this American experiment works.
At the same time, I also believe that, if we aren’t willing to fight to incorporate that principle into the way we run our Commonwealth and our country, we risk losing something more than an election.
When I look around the country right now, I don’t just see a public health crisis or an economic crisis. I see an identity crisis. If that idea that we’re supposed to have each other’s backs continues to disappear from our political consciousness, then we cannot be, and will never be, the America we’ve always hoped we might become.
We know that terrible times give can birth to big and positive changes. Out of the Great Depression came the New Deal. We rebuilt from World War II by growing the biggest middle class in history. The turmoil of the 1960s produced enormous advances in civil rights.
But none of that was inevitable. None of that was by accident.
We have to choose to think bigger instead of smaller, and we have to trust that voters are truly hungry for leaders committed to building a society where we’re all in it together.
I really believe that, deep down, that’s who Pennsylvanians are, who Americans are. And it is certainly who I am.
There’s a line from Macbeth that goes Nothing in his life / became him like the leaving it. I plan to continue the important work of moving our Commonwealth and our country closer to its highest ideals, and I hope to return someday to the arena of public service. But if this winds up being the end of my time in government, I’m grateful that my optimism has outlasted my career and not the other way around.
You know, shortly after I took office, I received a note from Richard Mourdock, who had served as Treasurer of Indiana, and ran for Senate as a Tea Party Republican.
Politically speaking, Richard and I couldn’t be more different. In fact, he’d probably take being called a far-right Tea Party Republican as a huge compliment.
But as we discovered we had a common interest in making retirement savings more accessible—in fact, the portable retirement account program I proposed during my time in office was based in part on Richard’s work.
And, more than that, we had a common respect for the awesome privilege of public service.
In his note, Richard urged me to never take for granted even a single day that I was in a position to help people, to be “ever emboldened by the call to serve,” because one’s time in office is inevitably limited. “Opportunities,” he warned, “are fleeting.” Tell me about it.
So, I find myself today overwhelmed with gratitude for the opportunity I’ve had over the last four years. And while it’s been my name on the door, and my name on the bumper stickers, I owe this tremendous privilege to a lot of people who deserve more credit than I have time to give them today. So I’d like to close with a few long-overdue and completely insufficient thank-yous.
First, I’ve had all the fun of this job while my family has borne most of the burden. So to my amazing wife and partner Carolyn, to our four kids, to my mom and sister and all the extended Torsella/Short clan – I love you, and I’m so lucky.
I’m so grateful to my campaign “family” too. Our small but mighty staff, and our volunteers and supporters around the state – and around the country – who gave so generously of their time and resources.
And to an extraordinary group of public servants, my team and colleagues at Pennsylvania Treasury, who believed there was no problem creativity and determination couldn’t solve. You were right, you did remarkable things, and you have so much more to contribute.
Finally, and most importantly, I want to thank the people of Pennsylvania for the privilege of serving you. It has been an honor I will never forget, and I’ll see you again — soon.