Former Lackawanna County Assistant District Attorney Kathleen Kane is seeking to become the first woman to be elected to the post of Pennsylvania Attorney General. But she'll have to beat Republican David Freed. Kane touts herself as a "prosecutor, not a politician." Freed, meanwhile, has served as Cumberland County District Attorney since 2006 and his office oversees 4,000 cases a year. (A third candidate, Libertarian Marakay Rogers of York, is also running.) Kane says a Democrat is needed to keep Republican-dominated Harrisburg honest, especially when it comes to assessing how Gov. Tom Corbett, who formerly held the attorney general's post, conducted the child-molestation case against notorious Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. But so far, the campaign's largest flash point has been over advertising tactics.
The campaign took a nasty turn in September, when the Republican State Leadership Committee ran an ad contending Kane was soft on two rape cases involving young victims.
But Kane wasn't involved in the cases, according to fact-checkers — one of whom ranked it among "the most blatantly false attack ads of the political season" — and the one victim's father has denounced the spot. The RSLC eventually pulled the ad. Kane blasts Freed for "repeatedly refus[ing] to denounce the ad or tell his supporters to take it down." Freed did not respond to requests for comment, but has told the Philadelphia Inquirer that his campaign was not involved: "I was disappointed in them. It's not the ad I would have chosen to run."
Freed has countered that Kane deceptively claimed an endorsement by state troopers — a charge Kane hotly denies. "The situation occurred because of a simple, unintentional mix-up by a campaign intern" that was corrected within hours, Kane says. "Voters see a stark difference between one minor and quickly corrected error and the pattern of intentional lies that my opponent and his supporters have peddled," she says.
Freed pledges that he will "preserve our right to keep and bear arms," and was endorsed by the National Rifle Association.
Kane says she supports the Second Amendment, but did not answer an NRA questionnaire — which the organization claimed was "a sign of indifference or outright hostility to the rights of gun owners and sportsmen." Anti-gun-violence group CeaseFirePA, meanwhile, endorsed Kane. Director Max Nacheman praises her willingness to investigate reciprocity agreements — deals in which Pennsylvania accepts gun permits from other states, even those with less-stringent requirements. "The attorney general seat for a long time has been given a free pass on being a leader on gun-violence issues," Nacheman says.
Social issues, notes pollster G. Terry Madonna, "haven't really played out" at the attorney general level since former governor Bob Casey Sr. passed the Abortion Control Act of 1989, which was challenged by Planned Parenthood and went to the Supreme Court in 1992.
But Madonna notes neither candidate has been too vocal about their positions. Planned Parenthood has endorsed Kane, who scored a 100 percent for reproductive-rights issues. Kane is pro-choice, and against mandatory ultrasounds. "It is also telling that my opponent, who seeks an office that exists to protect all Pennsylvanians — including women — continues to remain silent on his position on this law," Kane says.
Freed did not fill out a Planned Parenthood questionnaire, though his campaign has pledged to "protect the sanctity of human life and defend the sacred institution of traditional marriage."
In addition to the NRA's backing, Freed has support from conservative business groups like the state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the state Chamber of Commerce. The two candidates have split endorsements from police groups; Freed won the backing of Pittsburgh's Fraternal Order of Police, for example, while Kane picked up the support of the FOP locals representing police in the city of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh's suburbs.