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Lehigh Valley Election News

Lehigh County controller launches campaign for Pa. auditor general

Friends of Mark Pinsley
Lehigh County Controller Mark Pinsley kicked off his 2024 campaign for auditor general Friday morning.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Fresh off his re-election as Lehigh County controller, Mark Pinsley announced Friday morning he's running for state auditor general in 2024.

In a news release, Pinsley argued he is the only candidate in the race that boasts the political and financial background to serve as a Pennsylvania's financial watchdog. In contrast, he accused Republican incumbent Tim DeFoor of being tied to special interests trying to privatize education.

"I’m a veteran, small business owner, and incumbent controller in PA’s 10th largest county with a real record of results. Only I can stand on that stage and make the case against DeFoor,” he said in the release.

The auditor general oversees a statewide office tasked with performing financial and performance audits to ensure government accountability and to safeguard taxpayer dollars. Along with the governor, treasurer and attorney general, it is one of four statewide executive offices.

Pinsley joins a field that includes state Sen. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Philadelphia, who ran for U.S. Senate last year; and state Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, who served as a compromise speaker for the Pennsylvania House early in 2023. The winner of the Democratic primary is expected to take on DeFoor, who previously served as controller of Dauphin County.

Pinsley's four years as controller have stood out for their unconventional audits. Past controllers have largely focused their attention on mandated reviews, but Pinsley has dedicated resources to matters beyond the controller's typical responsibility such as the population of the Lehigh County Jail and the health care package offered to Lehigh County employees. Critics on both sides of the aisle have argued he's butted into issues outside his jurisdiction while Pinsley has argued his responsibility to safeguard taxpayer money offers him broad investigative powers.

The most recent example was an audit examining the rates of child medical abuse diagnoses in the Lehigh Valley. He determined Lehigh and Northampton counties have comparatively high rates and called for an investigation into Lehigh Valley Health Network and its Child Advocacy Center. Lehigh County social workers often make decisions about whether to remove children from homes due to suspected abuse based off the expert opinion of doctors at the health network.

The report has led to controversy throughout the county. Pinsley and families have criticized the county for not diving into an investigation of the matter, while county officials have questioned the ethics of Pinsley accepting a $50,000 political donation from an attorney who is looking to sue the health network and potentially the county for allegedly unwarranted family separations.

Pinsley has been an active figure on the campaign trail. In 2017, he became the first Democrat sworn onto the South Whitehall Board of Supervisors in 20 years. After losing a close race for state Senate in 2018, he won his first term as Lehigh County controller. He again ran unsuccessfully for state Senate in 2022 before winning re-election as county controller this year.

During this past Lehigh County controller race, challenger Robert Smith Jr. accused Pinsley of using his office to further his political career. Pinsley's focus on discretionary audits are attempts to build name recognition for himself, Smith said. Unlike Smith, Pinsley declined to promise that he would not seek higher office during his term, saying he was always looking for opportunities to better serve his community.