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Erin McClelland beat the party-backed candidate for Pa. treasurer. Donations are starting to roll in

Erin McClelland.
McClelland campaign
Democratic nominee Erin McClelland will face Stacy Garrity, the Republican incumbent, this fall.

The biggest funder of Erin McClelland’s primary campaign for Pennsylvania treasurer was Erin McClelland herself.

Ahead of the April 23 election, she loaned her campaign $100,000 while raising just $13,000 — none of which came from political committees. She won anyway, upsetting the well-funded, party-endorsed candidate.

A new campaign finance filing shows that after the primary, McClelland raised more than $11,000 in just three weeks — a relatively small amount, but a sign that establishment assistance is on the way.

“We're starting to get a lot of institutional support from the labor unions as well as the [state Democratic] Party,” McClelland said. “We did call a number of key donors in the primaries to introduce ourselves and prime those donors with the understanding that when we won the primary, then we could call them back.”

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Pennsylvania’s current treasurer is Republican Stacy Garrity, who unexpectedly unseated a Democratic incumbent four years ago despite having little funding. Going into this election, Garrity has a clear advantage, with more than $700,000 on hand as of May 13.

McClelland — an Allegheny County native, small businessperson, and former county project manager — has nearly $67,000, but she says more is coming soon.

After her victory, she quickly received endorsements from key unions like United Steelworkers District 10 and AFSCME Council 13, which represents more than 65,000 workers in the commonwealth, including Treasury workers.

“I'm looking forward to moving forward at a much greater pace with raising money and developing a real infrastructure that can win,” McClelland said.

Mike Mikus, a Democratic strategist who isn’t involved in the Treasury race, said he doesn’t think McClelland’s lack of institutional backing during the primary means much for the general. Despite never holding office before, McClleland’s not a stranger to politics, he said. She unsuccessfully ran for Congress twice.

“She’s had relationships with a lot of these folks for years, so I think because of that, it's a pretty easy transition,” he said. “I don't think so much that they were opposing her as they were supporting her opponent.”

Pittsburgh’s IBEW Local 5 donated $10,000 to McClelland after the primary, while $1,000 came from Democratic U.S. Sen. John Fetterman’s campaign committee. McClelland said she has known Fetterman since 2016, when they both mounted unsuccessful longshot campaigns — his for U.S. Senate, hers for Congress.

“We really had each others’ backs in that one. He always said nice things about me in the press,” she said. “That friendship has gone back quite a while.”

McClelland said she has a lot in common with Fetterman, both in terms of their histories living in deindustrialized parts of Allegheny County and in taking strong positions that aren’t always in lockstep with their party.

It sometimes leads them in different directions. During her primary, McClelland strongly criticized Garrity, the incumbent treasurer, for making what McClelland considered to be a politically motivated investment in Israel Bonds after the October attack by Hamas. Fetterman, meanwhile, has become one of the U.S. Senate’s most unequivocal Israel backers.

“John has his beliefs. I have my beliefs,” McClelland said. “I think we have far more in common than we have differences, but we do have differences.”

During the primary, McClelland defeated state Rep. Ryan Bizzarro (D., Erie), who largely focused his campaign on national issues and Garrity. The Republican is a longtime supporter of former President Donald Trump and spoke at a January 2021 rally in Harrisburg that was organized to encourage state lawmakers to decertify the 2020 election results.

McClelland, meanwhile, talked about expanding the Treasury’s oversight of state contracts. She wants to require companies in Pennsylvania to verify their supply chains are free of goods from countries with records of human rights abuses and deny them state contracts if they can’t show they’ve cut ties with these countries.

She also sharply criticized Garrity’s support for a bill — sponsored by a Democrat — that would create a statewide retirement plan option for employers who otherwise can’t afford to offer one. Employees would contribute to IRA accounts managed by a private third-party firm.

McClelland said she believes it isn’t well-regulated, and said she plans to pitch an alternative.

“I'm sure that when the self-directed IRA that is in that program was conceived, it was conceived with the best of intentions,” she told Spotlight PA. “But you know, it's not exactly outside the purview of Wall Street to take a well-intentioned financial product and turn it into a cesspool of loss and fraud.”

Garrity’s campaign so far isn’t treating McClelland as a major threat. In a post-primary statement, her campaign called McClelland a “perennial candidate in search of a spot on the public payroll” with proposals that are “weird at best.”

The incumbent treasurer ran unopposed during the April primary. Her campaign website highlights her office’s work on recovering unclaimed property and upgrading its transparency portal.

McClelland said there’s been pushback, including from members of her own party, to some of her ideas. She didn’t name any names, but noted she thinks that there is “always a desire on the machine end, especially when you win the way that we won, to get control.”

Mikus said he thinks it’s unlikely that there will be any real attempts to keep McClelland from running the campaign she wants to run.

“I think anybody that knows Erin McClelland knows that she has very strong views, and I don't think anybody's going to try and get her to change her positions on anything,” he said.

90.5 WESA partners with Spotlight PA, a collaborative, reader-funded newsroom producing accountability journalism for all of Pennsylvania. More at