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Who is Malcolm Kenyatta, a Democrat running for Pa. auditor general?

by Kate Mays, Paige Willett, and Wynter Muro for Spotlight PA |

Democratic candidate for auditor general Malcolm Kenyatta
Commonwealth Media Services

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Update, April 24: Malcolm Kenyatta wins Democratic primary for Pa. auditor general, will face Republican Tim DeFoor this fall

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania voters will elect an auditor general this November, but Democrats and Republicans first must pick their candidates this spring.

Malcolm Kenyatta is one of two Democrats running for his party’s nomination and will appear on the April 23 primary ballot.

The auditor general monitors how public dollars are spent, to catch fraud and graft if they occur. The office does this by conducting financial audits, and monitoring whether state-funded programs are doing what they’re supposed to.

Learn more about Kenyatta below:

Who is Malcolm Kenyatta?


A native of Philadelphia, Kenyatta graduated from Temple University and Drexel University before working as a community activist and on diversity and inclusion efforts at the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia.

He was elected to his North Philly-based seat in 2018 and became the first openly LGBTQ person of color to serve in the General Assembly. Elected at 28, he was also one of the state’s youngest-ever representatives.

Since taking office, Kenyatta has been an outspoken progressive, giving fiery speeches that often go viral. He supports a higher minimum wage, stricter gun laws, and LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections. He’s been a chief proponent of nondiscrimination legislation in particular, sponsoring a long-sought bill that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes under Pennsylvania’s Human Relations Act.

He’s also sponsored legislation on less high-profile issues, such as establishing a state cybersecurity board or adding clawback language to all state grant contracts. However, in the divided General Assembly, few of these issues have won bipartisan support, and none have yet become law.

In addition to running for auditor general, Kenyatta is seeking reelection to the state House.

Kenyatta has dabbled in national politics, serving as a surrogate for President Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign. In 2023, Biden appointed Kenyatta the chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Black Americans.

Kenyatta was the first openly LGBTQ person of color to seek a U.S. Senate seat — a bid he lost in the 2022 primary election to U.S. Sen. John Fetterman.

On his website, Kenyatta says he wants to be auditor general “because it’s time for the underdog to be the watchdog for Pennsylvania’s working families. To ask the tough questions, to help reimagine and streamline government, and to build the coalitions to fix what’s wrong.”

According to his campaign website, Kenyatta would do the following if elected:

  • Create a Bureau of Labor and Worker Protections to investigate “wage theft and union busting,” and ensure businesses follow labor laws concerning independent contractors.

  • Take back responsibility for annual school compliance audits from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, a change the current auditor general made in 2022.

  • Ensure hospital nonprofits and long-term care providers disclose their use of state dollars.

  • Review the state’s approach to reducing gun violence.

Kenyatta has accused his Democratic auditor general opponent, Lehigh County Controller Mark Pinsley, of racism — a claim Pinsley said is without merit.

In a Ring video that circulated on social media, Kenyatta is seen telling a constituent, “There’s the guy Mark Pinsley, who I told you don’t like Black people.”

The video was recorded inside the home of the mother-in-law of one of Kenyatta’s former state House challengers, according to the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. That candidate, Jon Hankins, was recently removed from the primary ballot following a residency challenge.

In a statement to news outlets, Kenyatta did not explain the basis for the accusation, instead calling the video “dirty political tricks.” Pinsley said the accusation is false and told Lehigh Valley News that it “doesn’t show good temperament.”

Endorsements: Pennsylvania Democratic Party; unions including the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers and the Pennsylvania State Building and Construction Trades Council; the Working Families Party; Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey; seven members of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation; and members of the state legislature, including House Speaker Joanna McClinton of Philadelphia.

>>READ MORE: A complete guide to the primary candidates for auditor general

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