Former Pa. House Speaker Mark Rozzi announces run for auditor general

By: - October 23, 2023 4:55 pm

State Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, speaks before signing a package of three bills, which mirror three of the Grand Jury’s recommendations on addressing the statute of limitations for victims of child sexual abuse, inside Muhlenberg High School on Tuesday, November 26, 2019 (Commonwealth Media Services photo).

State Rep. Mark Rozzi (D-Berks), who briefly served as speaker of the Pennsylvania House this year, said on Sunday that he will run for Auditor General in 2024.

In a WHTM-TV interview where he announced his candidacy on Sunday, Rozzi said he wants to continue the good governance he has worked for as a six-term lawmaker in a statewide office. 

Rozzi is the second Democrat to announce that they are running for auditor general. State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia) said in March he would seek the Democratic nomination. Incumbent Auditor General Timothy DeFoor said he will seek reelection.

The auditor general serves as the state’s chief fiscal watchdog using audits to ensure that all state money is spent legally and properly.

Rozzi built his political career around a mission to hold the Catholic Church responsible for the harm to victims of sexual abuse by members of the clergy. Rozzi was abused as a child by a Catholic priest. He told the Capital-Star on Monday that he saw his work in the General Assembly as a calling to fix child protections by extending the statute of limitations prospectively for future victims to age 55. 

“When there was a problem in the House and we couldn’t elect a speaker and chaos was happening I saw it as another calling,” Rozzi said. 

As the House started its new session in January with Republicans holding a temporary 101-99 majority, Rozzi negotiated a deal with GOP leaders to become an independent if they supported his election as speaker. 

His election on Jan. 3 ended a partisan gridlock as the House waited for special elections to replace a Democrat who died but was reelected anyway and two others who resigned to take higher offices.

Rozzi used his position as speaker to attempt to advance legislation to hold a Constitutional referendum on an amendment to give survivors of childhood sexual abuse a two-year window in which to sue their accusers. 

The amendment bill and another that would change state law to allow survivors to sue passed the House, but not before Democrats secured a 102-vote majority in special elections in February and Rep. Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia) was elected speaker.

Pa. House elects Joanna McClinton as the first Black woman to serve as speaker

Both bills are awaiting passage out of committees in the Senate. Republicans, who control the upper chamber, said the survivors’ amendment should not be prioritized over other proposed amendments including provisions for voter ID, election audits and legislative review of regulations issued by the executive branch.

His state House term ends next year and Rozzi said he will not seek reelection to the Legislature while running for Auditor General. “When I see politicians do that, to me, that is the most selfish thing that they could do, because if there was a special election, it could cost the taxpayers millions of dollars,” Rozzi said during the WHTM interview. He is a prime sponsor of legislation that would allow public officials to run for only one office at a time.

Rozzi said he would run for auditor general on his record of fiscal responsibility and as a business owner and was critical of DeFoor for the support his campaign received from a conservative super PAC with ties to billionaire charter school proponent Jeffrey Yass.

DeFoor abdicated his duty as auditor general, Rozzi told the Capital-Star, when DeFoor closed his office’s bureau responsible for auditing traditional public schools and charter schools and handed the work back to the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Kenyatta also is critical of DeFoor, saying he failed to deliver the government that working people deserve. Kenyatta noted that he has received the endorsement of Democratic members of Congress, McClinton, Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) a majority of his House colleagues, organized labor and almost every county Democratic chairperson.

“In this race I’ll continue to do what I’ve always done: work hard, show up, and fight to earn every vote in the primary and general elections,” Kenyatta told the Capital-Star. 

Rozzi acknowledged the head start Kenyatta has with endorsements but said he believes he can make up ground because of his broader appeal to Pennsylvania voters. 

“I’m more of an old-school Blue Dog,” Rozzi said in the television interview. “I’m gonna say it like it is. I’m more of a centrist, which I believe my type of politics represents Pennsylvania a lot better than Malcolm’s.”

This article was updated at 5:58 p.m Oct. 23, 2023 to add comment from Mark Rozzi.

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Peter Hall
Peter Hall

Peter Hall has been a journalist in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for more than 20 years, most recently covering criminal justice and legal affairs for The Morning Call in Allentown. His career at local newspapers and legal business publications has taken him from school board meetings to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and many points of interest between. He earned a degree in journalism from Susquehanna University.