3 East End Democrats endorse Josh Shapiro in AG race
February 8, 2016 12:00 AM
Stephen A. Zappala Jr.
By Chris Potter / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Democrat Josh Shapiro will announce the support of three East End Democrats today, part of building a case that he’s not just a law-and-order candidate running for state attorney general.
Mr. Shapiro, a former state legislator and current Montgomery County commissioner, is being backed by state Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Squirrel Hill; Pittsburgh City Counciman Dan Gilman; and renowned pathologist Cyril Wecht. In a statement, the three officials, each from Pittsburgh’s 14th Ward, laud Mr. Shapiro as a progressive champion.
Mr. Frankel, for example, said Mr. Shapiro “stands up for progressive values” and will “never be afraid to stand up to big, powerful interests.” Dr. Wecht lauded Mr. Shapiro’s “record of reform and a history of standing up for progressive Democratic values.” And in an interview, Mr. Gilman called Mr. Shapiro a “pragmatic progressive, and we need more of those.” He praised Mr. Shapiro’s legislative work in pressing for better state lobbyist-disclosure laws, among other “measures that I’ve admired and tried to copy here on council.”
On Sunday, Mr. Shapiro said the endorsements reflect a shared interest in an expansive view of the attorney general’s role. For example, he noted that he and Mr. Frankel both pressed for statewide legislation banning discrimination against gays and lesbians. Harrisburg Republicans have stymied that effort, but Mr. Shapiro said, if elected, “I will lend my voice to that fight, and I could certainly see the office of Attorney General being more aggressive to protect LGBT Pennsylvanians.”
Today’s endorsements follow a week in which another Democratic candidate for the post, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., repeated an attack on Mr. Shapiro’s lack of prosecutorial experience.
Though Mr. Shapiro holds a law license and a Georgetown law degree, he is the only major candidate without such a background: A third Democrat, John Morganelli, is DA for Northampton County, while Republican state Sen. John Rafferty, R-Montgomery, has worked in the attorney general’s office. Embattled incumbent Kathleen Kane may also appear on the ballot.
Mr. Zappala, who has been a DA since 1999, has repeatedly faulted Mr. Shapiro’s background, most recently after former Gov. Ed Rendell backed Mr. Shapiro last week.
Asked whether he was emphasizing a more expansive vision of the office to counter Mr. Zappala’s focus on prosecutions, Mr. Shapiro demurred. “I’m only focused on my own message,” he said. “This should be a campaign about ideas and vision, and that’s the campaign I’ve run.”
Mr. Gilman, for his part, said, “This isn’t a purely criminal office, and too frequently people think of it that way.” Mr. Shapiro is “somebody who understands the office’s importance in terms of protecting people and their rights.”
Mr. Zappala, who had little reason to expect support from longtime foe Dr. Wecht, has been attracting allies of his own.
Last week, he won the backing of the Pittsburgh Regional Building Trades Council, which represents 33 union locals and which hailed him as “fearless when it comes to enforcing the labor laws.” The week before, he was endorsed by the Western Pennsylvania Police Chiefs’ Association, whose members include police chiefs from 21 counties in Western Pennsylvania.
Mr. Shapiro has previously garnered support from mayors in Harrisburg, York and Lancaster, among others. He said he’d be announcing more backers, including support in Erie, soon. “This is a message that resonates everywhere,” he said.
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