Campaigns & Elections

Inside the vault: Democrats share their vision for the Pennsylvania Treasury

Democrats Ryan Bizzarro and Erin McClelland are vying for the Democratic nomination in 2024.

State Rep. Ryan Bizzarro (left) and Erin McClelland (right)

State Rep. Ryan Bizzarro (left) and Erin McClelland (right) Commonwealth Media Services and Elect Erin McClelland

Two Pennsylvania Democrats are currently vying for the party’s nomination for state treasurer in a race that has grown increasingly contentious as the April 23 primary nears. 

Democratic state Rep. Ryan Bizzarro, who represents the 3rd state House District in Erie and chairs the House Democratic Policy Committee, is looking to challenge incumbent Treasurer Stacy Garrity in the fall. Since joining the race last September, Bizzarro has frequently framed the race against Garrity as a battle between extremism and normalcy.

Bizzarro launched his campaign last year with the backing of the state’s Democratic establishment, rolling out more than 100 endorsements from the members of the state’s congressional delegation, General Assembly and local leaders within a day of launching his 2024 campaign.

But before Bizzarro can clinch the Democratic nomination, he’ll face off against Erin McClelland, a substance abuse and mental health counselor who spent time doing process improvement work with former U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul H. O’Neill during her time at the Institute for Research, Education and Training in Addictions, also known as IRETA. 

The state treasurer is responsible for managing and overseeing more than $150 billion in state funds, as well as state investments, and the Treasury itself oversees several programs aimed at financially empowering residents, municipalities and local governments, according to the office. 

The two Democratic candidates have differing visions for the Pennsylvania Treasury. Bizzarro has said the state treasurer needs to do more to return billions of dollars in unclaimed property to Pennsylvania taxpayers, and has floated a plan to open up regional Treasury offices across the state to support financial literacy efforts. 

McClelland has developed her own plan for how the Pennsylvania Treasury should operate – at the top of her list is cybersecurity, followed by strengthening the state’s contract oversight to ensure that state contracts line up with labor and environmental regulations.

Below, City & State examines the platforms of the two Democratic candidates for treasurer and how they hope to reform the office if successful in this year’s general election. 

Unclaimed property

Bizzarro has made the return of unclaimed property a priority of his bid. 

Unclaimed property refers to items such as uncashed checks, dormant bank accounts, tangible property and forgotten stocks that are in the possession of the state Treasury. According to the department, there is approximately $4.5 billion in unclaimed property managed by the Pennsylvania Treasury.

As a state legislator, Bizzarro introduced House Bill 2092, which would create a system for the automatic return of all unclaimed property worth $10,000 or less. His legislation also seeks to fund efforts to raise awareness about unclaimed property in Pennsylvania. 

Bizzarro told City & State that while he respects the work of the public servants at the Pennsylvania Treasury, more needs to be done to connect Pennsylvanians with their property.

“I can appreciate the job that her team is trying to do, but quite frankly, she’s not getting it done fast enough,” Bizzarro said of Garrity. “Payments are taking entirely too long to get out to folks and it’s just not effective or efficient.” 

“You gotta take some bold moves and you gotta do what you need to do in order to get people their money back,” he added.

In addition to unclaimed property, Bizzarro has pitched a plan to create a $500 million “Impact Pennsylvania” investment fund to provide investment deposits to lending institutions to provide loans to consumers, assist with agricultural expenses and fund economic development projects. He has also called for the creation of a state infrastructure fund to provide financial resources for infrastructure and real estate projects.


On the cybersecurity front, McClelland has called for the creation of a statewide cybersecurity collaborative that would bring together leaders in banking, technology and government agencies to better protect against cyber threats. 

In a press release announcing her cybersecurity plans, McClelland said she wants to see a collective effort between the public and private sectors that responds quickly to potential cybersecurity threats.

“To tackle an issue this big, for which we already have a significant disadvantage, we must implement a statewide, high-velocity organizational structure if we are to have a chance of catching up,” McClelland said in a Feb. 14 statement on her intention to form the collaborative. “Each day we approach cyber threats with the sluggish and bureaucratic motions that the legislature enacts, our enemies gain exponential amounts of ground.”

She told City & State that in the wake of recent cyberattacks on the Pennsylvania court system, Butler County government and the Municipal Water Authority of Aliquippa over the last year, the state treasurer should take an active role in leading cybersecurity efforts. 

“If you look at the National Association of State Treasurers’ website, they talk about how important it is that our state treasurers really start to take the lead on this effort because they are operating a cybersecurity program in the treasurer’s office. So they have resources, they have professionals, they have access to information that they can really provide support and guidance, alert systems – things like that – to our local municipalities. 

“This is the definition of the fierce urgency of now, and our current treasurer is not touching it, neither is my Democratic opponent,” she continued. “They’re not saying a thing about it. I feel like I’m yelling from a rooftop. When are we going to start doing something about this?” 

Regional Treasury offices

Whether it’s connecting people with their unclaimed property or raising public awareness about other tools and initiatives the Pennsylvania Treasury offers, Bizzarro says the establishment of regional Treasury offices would be extremely beneficial to the state.

“I want to ensure that these programs are being promoted and put out into communities, which is why I have a plan to create regional offices for the Treasury. I think that’s long overdue,” he said. “If the governor’s office and the auditor general’s office can have regional offices, the treasurer’s office should have regional offices.”

Bizzarro said the offices could help the office connect with people directly in their communities, and could also be used to promote financial literacy. 

“That’s why I talked about having these regional offices and having a presence in communities. I think the treasurer’s office has a role to play – even in schools. We can set up financial learning there to teach kids how to do this, at least let them have some experience in writing a check, balancing finances,” he said. 

“The younger you work with individuals, the more likely it is for them to get the information that you’re giving to them – to actually learn it, understand it and adopt it,” he added.

Supply chain issues

McClelland’s eight-page campaign prospectus, which outlines her vision for the office, mentions how she hopes to work with the legislature to ensure that labor and environmental standards are being adhered to regarding imports and purchases.

The document points to the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, a bill signed into law by President Joe Biden in 2021 at the federal level that directs the federal Forced Labor Enforcement Task Force to “develop a strategy for supporting enforcement of the prohibition on the importation of goods into the United States manufactured wholly or in part with forced labor in the People’s Republic of China,” according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. 

McClelland wrote in her policy document that the legislature “has to generate pressure on manufacturers which the Treasurer can then enforce.”

“When you look at the reforms Biden has done on trade – restrictions, by conflict, on materials, or purchasing from the Xinjiang province of China where 1.2 million people are in labor camps – we need to make sure that those reforms are implemented in our supply chain,” McClelland said. 

“The treasurer has contract oversight, which means that you have the opportunity to build vendor lists that are approved that meet those standards, you can provide more information on our contractors – small, large businesses; women-owned and minority-owned businesses; union contractor versus non-union,” she said. “So I really want to provide more information about what’s happening in our supply chain and who we’re paying to do what.”

Trading shots

The war of words between Bizzarro and McClelland has intensified in the weeks and months leading up to April 23.

Bizzarro’s campaign has criticized McClelland over a report that she campaigned and raised donations for her treasurer campaign prior to registering a fundraising committee with the Department of State, with his campaign spokesperson calling in February for an investigation over her handling of campaign finance records. 

McClelland told City & State that her campaign encountered technical difficulties when submitting its report and that she has since filed an amended report with the Department of State. 

In an interview with City & State, Bizzarro also criticized McClelland for running for multiple political offices in the past, such as Congress and Allegheny County Executive, calling her a “perennial candidate.”

“I am not a career candidate. This is not a vanity project for me,” Bizzarro said. “I don’t run for offices multiple times just to run, and run, and run and not be successful.” 

McClelland pushed back on his framing of her. “He’s run for state rep and now he’s running for treasurer at the same time – so it’s an interesting characterization,” she said. “It’s pretty hypocritical to say when you’re running for two offices at the same time, and raising money for two offices at the same time.” 

Just days from the primary, both candidates are making their final arguments that they’re the best choice to represent Democrats in the general election.

“I feel very strongly that you need a thoughtful investment mind in this position, and Ryan Bizzarro doesn't know preferred stock from livestock,” McClelland said.

Bizzarro clearly disagrees. “I know what the job does, I know what it entails and I know the pathway to expand the role of a treasurer and the programs that are there,” he said.