Dave Fawcett planning to withdraw from state AG race
January 20, 2016 12:27 AM
Dave Fawcett says he will withdraw his candidacy for state attorney general.
By Chris Potter / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pittsburgh attorney Dave Fawcett, who launched his campaign for attorney general as the first candidate from Western Pennsylvania, will announce his withdrawal later today.
“It’s been a hard decision,” said Mr. Fawcett, a former Allegheny County councilman, this morning. "With my courtroom experience and the battles I've fought, I thought I’d be right for the job. But statewide races are always geographic, and we don't need to split the ticket in the west."
Indeed, the political landscape changed for Mr. Fawcett in mid-December, when Allegheny County District Attorney Steve Zappala entered the race. Mr. Fawcett said that when he announced his campaign the month before, "the idea and hope" was that he'd be the lone candidate from the west, a position that would give him a platform to tell his story to voters.
Perhaps the most dramatic chapter of that story, and one which would almost certainly have endeared him to Democratic constituencies, was Mr. Fawcett's courtroom fight against Don Blankenship, a highly controversial West Virginia mine operator. The case, which inspired a John Grisham novel, went as high as the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that Mr. Blankenship's financial support of a West Virginia Supreme Court justice had raised the "probability of actual bias ...to an unconstitutional level."
"Dave certainly has the bona fides to serve," said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who worked with Mr. Fawcett during two terms they shared on Allegheny County Council. He praised Mr. Fawcett's tenure on council, where the then-Republican supported environmental reforms among other measures, and said, "The work he's done in West Virginia is groundbreaking."
Even so, Mr. Fitzgerald said, "As much as Dave has this track record, one of the difficulties he's got is a very significant candidate also coming out of Allegheny County." Mr. Zappala, who has been DA since 1999, would be in a strong position to vie for union and financial support, said Mr. Fitzgerald, who endorsed Mr. Zappala last month. "Steve is actually doing [a prosecutor's] job, and that experience is a little more directly related" to the AG post. There was a risk, he said, that "Dave would be taking away votes from another Western Pennsylvania candidate."
Indeed, Mr. Fawcett said a key factor in motivating his decision was that the current embattled attorney general, Democrat Kathleen Kane, has suggested she may run for re-election. "You don't want to split the ticket and allow that to continue" with Ms. Kane becoming the party's nominee, he said.
"Steve Zappala has earned his shot" at representing the west, said Mr. Fawcett. "He's been a public servant for years, and he's got great name recognition. I've got a story to tell, and so does he. But in the end, we need a change, period."
In addition to Mr. Zappala, Montgomery County commissioner Josh Shapiro, Delaware County's Jack Stollsteimer and Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli are still considered contenders for the Democratic nomination. State Sen. John Rafferty, R-Montgomery, is seeking the Republican nomination.
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