John Cole, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
December 11, 2023
On Monday, the Pennsylvania State Construction and Building Trades Council announced its support for two Democrats running for attorney general and auditor general.
The organized labor union, consisting of 16 Regional Councils and more than 115 local unions from 15 International Building Trades Unions, endorsed state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta’s (D-Philadelphia) bid for auditor general and Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer’s campaign for attorney general.
When Kenyatta ran for U.S. Senate in 2022, another Democratic candidate, then-U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb of Allegheny County won the endorsement of the Philadelphia Building & Construction Trades Council — which is part of the PA State Construction and Building Trades Council — in the primary. The Democrats’ nominee for Senate, John Fetterman, won the PA council’s endorsement in the general election.
The topic of natural gas fracking was an issue early on during that race.
In an April 2022 debate with Lamb, Kenyatta said in order to get to a clean energy future “we have to stop approving new fracking permits.” This would seem to be at odds with the union, which generally supports the natural gas industry because of the potential for job creation.
But Kenyatta told the Capital-Star in an interview on Monday that his position of supporting a “moratorium on new wells,” is consistent with President Joe Biden’s position, who received the endorsement of the PA Building Trades in 2020 over then-President Donald Trump, and is what he talked about on the campaign trail in 2022.
“As Auditor General I’ll make sure project labor agreements are enforced and that we create a renaissance of clean energy union jobs in the hydrogen industry,” Kenyatta wrote in a statement to the Capital-Star. “My position has always been for energy producers to use the permits they have instead of simply saying they need more.”
Robert Bair, president of the PA State Construction and Building Trades Council, told the Capital-Star in an interview on Monday that the statewide building trades remain supportive of the natural gas industry. As for Kenyatta, Bair said that his positions have not always aligned with the unions’, but believes his plan for the office is the best among the current auditor general candidates.
“We look forward to him actually working hard for the working men and women of Pennsylvania,” Bair said. He pointed to Kenyatta’s plan to create a Bureau of Labor and Worker Protections and go after wage theft, miscommunication, and union busting as a “game changer for our members.”
As for Stollsteimer, Bair lauded his “vast depth of prosecutorial experience in wage theft divisions and worker misclassification.”
Kenyatta, along with fellow state Rep. Mark Rozzi (D-Berks) and Lehigh County Controller Mark Pinsley are seeking the Democratic Party nomination to face incumbent Republican Auditor General Tim DeFoor, who announced his reelection campaign last month.
Stollsteimer is one of five Democrats seeking his party’s nomination for attorney general, which includes Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, state Rep. Jared Solomon (D-Philadelphia), former Bucks County solicitor and federal prosecutor Joe Khan, and former Philadelphia Chief Public Defender Keir Bradford-Grey.
Bair said that there are “probably” a lot of candidates on the Democratic side of the aisle that they have differed with on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and other issues, but maintained that they still can support a candidate if they agree on most issues.
“It’s okay to not always agree on everything,” Bair said to the Capital-Star.
“Once we endorse, we endorse for a reason,” he added.
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