HARRISBURG, Pa. — Eugene DePasquale, Pennsylvania's former two-term auditor general, said Thursday that he will run for state attorney general, an office that played a critical role in rebuffing Republican attempts to overturn President Joe Biden's win over Donald Trump in the 2020 election.
DePasquale is the first candidate to announce in the 2024 race for the state's top law enforcement office and he is unlikely to be the only Democrat to seek the party's nomination in the presidential battleground state.
DePasquale, 51, won two statewide elections for auditor general and served as Pennsylvania’s independently elected fiscal watchdog from 2013 through 2020.
As auditor general, DePasquale called for the Legislature to ban gifts to public officials and said the state could reap a half-billion dollars in revenues if it legalized and taxed adult-use marijuana.
He accused the state Department of Environmental Protection of lacking a clear policy on its inspections of thousands of natural gas wells, said the state Department of Health wasn't effectively enforcing nursing home staffing levels and found that one-fifth of calls had gone unanswered at the state’s ChildLine child abuse reporting hotline.
A task force he helped run on school safety in 2018 recommended, in part, that schools expand mental health counseling programs and find better ways to inform parents and students about the availability of the services.
At times, he got under the skin of Gov. Tom Wolf's administration, for instance when he criticized the fellow Democrat's program under which businesses could seek permission to operate during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown.
DePasquale, who got his law degree from Widener University, has never worked as a prosecutor, defense lawyer or trial lawyer. But, in an interview, he pointed to his experience as auditor general as “the kind of leadership that Pennsylvania needs as its next attorney general.”
Every elected attorney general in Pennsylvania had had at least some experience in a county, state or federal prosecutor’s office until Democrat Josh Shapiro was elected to the office in 2016.
The attorney general's office has a budget of about $120 million annually and plays a critical role in arresting drug traffickers, fighting gun trafficking, defending state laws in court and protecting consumers from predatory practices.
Under Shapiro, the office issued a groundbreaking grand jury report in 2018 on the cover-up of child sexual abuse in six of Pennsylvania’s Roman Catholic dioceses and helped lead state attorneys general in settlement talks with pharmaceutical distributors and manufacturers over the opioid crisis.
The office also played a central role in defending the integrity of Pennsylvania's 2020 presidential election against repeated attempts to overturn it in state and federal courts by Trump's campaign and Republican allies.
After DePasquale left the auditor general's office, he made an unsuccessful run for Congress in 2020 in a Republican-leaning district that included Harrisburg and DePasquale’s then-hometown of York.
DePasquale, a Pittsburgh native, has moved back to Pittsburgh where he teaches courses at the University of Pittsburgh and works in private legal practice.
DePasquale is the grandson of the late former president of Pittsburgh’s city council, Eugene “Jeep” DePasquale, and got involved in politics early as chairman of the York County Democratic Party.
He worked in an economic development role in York city government before taking a top post in former Gov. Ed Rendell's Department of Environmental Protection and serving three terms in the state House of Representatives from 2007 to 2012.
Shapiro, who ran for governor last year and won, appointed Michelle Henry to finish the last two years of his term as attorney general after he was sworn in as governor in January.
Henry, a former Bucks County prosecutor, was Shapiro's top deputy for all six years of his term as attorney general. Henry has said she does not plan to run for the office in 2024.