The race for the office of Attorney General has had all the plot points of a great pulp novel: unproven allegations of a scandal within a scandal, blatantly false attacks, and hints of cronyism. At the center of the story the reader finds two well-pedigreed candidates.
One is a prosecutor with the backing of the Republican-establishment .
“Why should you care that I’ve been a tough, no-nonsense prosecutor for 15 years?” asked Republican Dave Freed.
The other is a prosecutor with the backing of the Democratic establishment and a heck of a lot of money.
“You want somebody tough enough to tell the Harrisburg boys enough is enough?” asked Democrat Kathleen Kane.
Republican Dave Freed has been the Cumberland County District Attorney for the past six years. Before that, he was an assistant county D-A. The latter is a post he has in common with his opponent, Democrat Kathleen Kane. The former prosecutor in Lackawanna County spent more than 12 years as an assistant D-A.
Both candidates said they’ll take a look at the handling of the Jerry Sandusky prosecution, though Kane said it with a lot more suspicion and innuendo than Freed. She’s worked to create a perception about her opponent’s relative friendliness with politically connected Republicans – a charge that makes Freed bristle.
“I must have missed the phone call when Governor Corbett called and handpicked me to run for Attorney General. That was a decision I made on my own,” he said.
Freed received the governor’s endorsement in the GOP primary. His father-in-law is LeRoy Zimmerman, the commonwealth’s first elected Attorney General. Zimmerman is still well-known in Republican circles and as a former chairman of the Hershey Trust Company, which the A-Gs office is currently investigating for reasons it doesn’t divulge.
Kane said she would be free of any political ties.
“The difference between my opponent and I is I was not handpicked by Tom Corbett. I do not owe my candidacy to anyone,” she said.
But Kane has family money, and high-profile backing from Democrats, including Bill Clinton who joined her on the campaign trail in Philadelphia. She has also shied away from talking with the media, running a campaign mostly through television ads.
Attorney General Duties
The responsibilities are manifold: the prosecution of various kinds of crime, overseeing grand juries, enforcing consumer protection laws, as well as defending the commonwealth and its agencies.
This is pretty much the job Freed is applying for in his bid for office, with an emphasis on the organizational aspect of the post.
“I know it’s not the sexiest answer, but the answer is we’ve got to make sure we’re as efficient as we can possibly be,” he said.
At the Attorney General debate in mid-October, he said his desire to do consumer protection work on a larger scale is the main reason he decided to run, though he has other priorities, as well.
“I want to start right away a special victims unit, streamline the referral process, I want to make us a leader in cyber-crime investigation, and I want to make sure that we battle synthetic drugs.”
Kane’s campaign suggests that the office of the Attorney General could stand to be changed. Also during the race’s only debate, Kane promised she would try cases herself as AG if she were the most qualified lawyer in the office. And she pulled the mom card to answer a question about her managerial experience.
“I am a mother of two boys who are sitting right over here. I can see what they’re doing over there and pay attention to Mr. Freed and everyone else. So I am a good multi-tasker,” she said.
Kane has her own list of if-elected priorities. She refers to the Harrisburg boys like some vague bogeyman
“I will make sure that the public corruption unit has more investigators and or prosecutors. I will make sure that I use my independence to clean up Harrisburg.”
Of course, it’s hard to talk about this race without talking about the influence of money and advertising.
Earlier in the campaign, an ad funded by an outside group smeared Kane for being soft on rape. The ads came from the Republican State Leadership Committee, based in Washington. They were roundly criticized for being false, even by Freed himself. He said he was disappointed in the ads. Kane thought he stopped too short when he didn’t call for them to be pulled from the airwaves.
“I understand Mr. Freed has no control over the ads that the RSLC run but I do expect a candidate for attorney general to stand up for the truth,” said Kane.
More recently, ads attacking Freed showed up on the airwaves. They were also bankrolled by an outside group. Ths time it was the Washington-based super PAC known as the Committee for Justice and Fairness. Those TV spots were also determined to be false. Kane denounced the ads, and called for them to be pulled immediately. They played on.