After arguing that Republicans should choose an auditor to run for auditor general, longtime state Rep. John Maher appeared to clinch his party’s nomination in a race against a retired banking lobby executive.
Mr. Maher, an eight-term lawmaker from Upper St. Clair, held a lead in most counties late Tuesday night over Frank Pinto of Dauphin, a former president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Association of Community Bankers.
In Allegheny County, Mr. Maher won overwhelmingly.
Mr. Maher, 53, had the endorsement of the state Republican Party and financial support from the campaign committee of Gov. Tom Corbett.
The message from voters, Mr. Maher said in a television interview after declaring victory, was “loud and clear: that Pennsylvania deserves an auditor for auditor general.”
“In these difficult fiscal times, the public is ready for public officials who know how to count,” he said.
The auditor general is responsible for examining the finances and performance of government programs in state agencies, school districts, state-related universities and other entities receiving state money.
Auditor General Jack Wagner, a Democrat from Pittsburgh, is barred by term limits from seeking another four years in office.
State Rep. Eugene DePasquale of York County ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination. An attorney who served as deputy secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, Mr. DePasquale has said he would not only find savings as auditor general but also promote ways to use that money.
With the tally in the Republican race pointing to a clear victory for Mr. Maher, Mr. Pinto, 67, celebrated the votes he had received even without the support of his party’s leaders.
“Every place we went, we were embraced and supported,” he said. “When you can only travel so far to get your message out, you really need to have some high finances, and we weren’t able to raise that money.”
As he campaigned for the statewide office, Mr. Maher pointed to his experience in accounting — his credentials as a certified public accountant and his role founding Maher Duessel, a Pittsburgh firm that audits government and nonprofit entities — as his central qualification for the post.
“I want to bring these skills and this experience to the office of the auditor general,” he said at a dinner of Franklin County Republicans on Sunday. “To fight waste, you’ve got to be able to find waste.”
Mr. Pinto, who worked for the state Senate in the 1970s and 1980s, told the same Greencastle audience that his distance from the political establishment — and specifically his lack of endorsement — made him the best candidate for the office.
“If you’re going to be a fiscal watchdog, you have to have an arm’s length distance,” he said.