The state attorney general race is shaping up to be a historic one: Kathleen Kane (pictured), polls indicate, is set to become the first woman and Democrat voted into the office since it became an elected position in 1980. What it will mean if Kane bests Republican David Freed is another question. For Kane, of course, the import is clear: The role of chief law-enforcement officer, charged with prosecuting crime and corruption, is one of the state’s most powerful offices. It’s also one of its most politically advantageous, serving as a launching pad to the governor’s mansion.
But the impact for Pennsylvanians is a different matter, and one that’s more difficult to foresee.
Kane, a former Lackawanna County assistant district attorney, has joined Freed in keeping the focus on corruption, crime and sexual abuse. Kane has also done her best to remind voters that former attorney general Gov. Tom Corbett supported Freed, critiquing Corbett’s handling of the child-sexual-abuse investigation of Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky. What hasn’t been discussed much by either campaign: environmental protection in a state undergoing a monumental gas drilling boom, corporate abuse of homeowners or the bloated prison population.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman — in the tradition of his hard-charging, sexually adventurous predecessor Eliot Spitzer — has brought major suits against banks for mortgage fraud, launched an investigation of shadowy nonprofits behind election-season attack ads and sued to demand a environmental review before gas drilling begins in the Delaware River Basin. New York’s attorney general, however, has extraordinary investigative powers not available in Pennsylvania. Jim Eisenhower, Democratic attorney general candidate in 2004, made consumer protection a cornerstone of his campaign in a state where tough-talking Republican prosecutors have always won — and narrowly lost to Corbett. So Democrats may have concluded that law-and-order campaigning is the way to go.
IN OTHER STATEWIDE RACES: Democratic state Rep. Eugene DePasquale is challenging Republican state Rep. John Maher for auditor general. DePasquale pledges to investigate pollution from gas drilling and to determine whether cuts to education caused test scores to fall. Maher touts his experience as an accountant.
Democratic state Treasurer Rob McCord is being challenged by Republican Diana Irey Vaughan. The state’s troubled public-employee pension fund has been an issue: Vaughan has criticized the office’s risky investment strategy and high fees paid to Wall Street managers; McCord blames the mess on his predecessors.
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