Embattled Attorney General Kane says she won’t seek a second term
The embattled AG says “we’ve made great strides,” but cites family pressures in making her decision.
February 16, 2016 3:05 PM
Rich Schultz/Associated Press
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane walks to a news conference in Scranton Tuesday.
Rich Schultz/Associated Press
Attorney General Kathleen Kane announces her decision at a news conference Tuesday in Scranton.
Rich Schultz/Associated Press
State Attorney General Kathleen Kane says she will not be running for re-election, saying, "You have to think about your family."
By Karen Langley / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau
SCRANTON, Pa. — Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced Tuesday she will not run for re-election, forgoing a potentially bruising campaign while she still faces an impeachment investigation in the House and a criminal trial scheduled for the summer.
Ms. Kane, once seen as a rising star among state Democrats, has had a tumultuous term in office. The state’s top law enforcement officer, she was charged with perjury and obstruction by county prosecutors who said she arranged a leak of confidential information to retaliate against a rival. The state Supreme Court suspended her law license, leading to a series of Senate hearings and then an attempt by the Senate to remove her on the same day the House authorized an impeachment investigation.
The turmoil has extended beyond the attorney general’s office: Ms. Kane’s discovery of sexual and otherwise inappropriate emails on state computers has led to the retirement of one state Supreme Court justice and the suspension of another.
In telling reporters Tuesday that she will not seek the Democratic nomination for attorney general this year, Ms. Kane made only indirect references to her legal and political challenges. Instead, she cited her responsibilities to her two sons, now in the seventh and ninth grades.
“While I love Pennsylvania, I love my sons first,” she said. “I am a mother first and foremost, because at the end of my life, I hope that history judges me well, but that’s for time to tell. I hope more that God and my sons judge me well.”
Ms. Kane pledged to “work tirelessly” against corruption in her remaining months in office, though she still faces the possibility that the House investigation will lead to an attempt to impeach her. That probe will continue despite Tuesday’s announcement, said Steve Miskin, a spokesman for House Republicans. Last week, in a separate legislative initiative, Senate Republicans narrowly failed to remove Ms. Kane from office, winning a majority of votes but not the two-thirds needed to advance the removal process to the governor.
The attorney general cited a number of achievements, in areas like targeting drug dealers, child predators and those who seek to take advantage of the elderly.
Four years ago, Ms. Kane campaigned in large part on a promise to investigate how the attorney general’s office under former Gov. Tom Corbett and his appointed successor, Linda Kelly, handled the investigation in the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse case. She became the first woman and first Democrat to win a race for attorney general since it became an elected position in 1980, and did so with more votes than either President Barack Obama or U.S. Sen. Bob Casey received in the state that day.
The following year, she received national notice when she announced she would not defend the state’s law against same-sex marriage.
There were signs of trouble. A report in the Philadelphia Inquirer in March 2014 raised questions about why Ms. Kane had shut down an undercover operation that caught Philadelphia Democrats on tape accepting money. She said the investigation was flawed, but the Philadelphia district attorney went on to secure guilty pleas.
Then, in August 2015, Montgomery County prosecutors charged Ms. Kane with perjury, obstruction and other crimes, saying she had orchestrated a leak of confidential information to retaliate against a former state prosecutor she believed had embarrassed her. Her trial on those charges is scheduled for August.
Ms. Kane has claimed the allegations against her were engineered by people seeking to cover up an exchange of inappropriate emails by public officials. She has released some such emails to reporters, and the disclosures have resulted in resignations and disciplining of employees involved. A state Supreme Court justice, Seamus McCaffery, retired after accusations he had sent pornographic emails, and a sitting justice, Michael Eakin, was suspended ahead of an ethics trial next month.
“Every single day since I was elected, I have tried to make sure that we clean up this commonwealth,” Ms. Kane said Tuesday. “I’ve made sure that we clean it and rid it of politicians, elected officials, judges, lawyers, prosecutors, whomever takes advantage of our system of justice.”
Democrats had lined up to challenge Ms. Kane for the party’s nomination, with three filing nominating petitions by Tuesday’s deadline to appear on the April 26 primary ballot. They are Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro and Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli. State Sen. John Rafferty of Montgomery County and former state and federal prosecutor Joe Peters are seeking the Republican nomination.
Ms. Kane did not directly say Tuesday whether she believed she could have won re-election. At one point, she said the factors elected officials must consider include: “Do you think you can win?” She also said that polling showed her ahead of the other Democrats.
Ms. Kane’s political efforts showed little signs of headway last year. In 2015, for example, her campaign committee had $246,330 on hand, but she also owed $1.65 million for a campaign loan from her husband, from whom she has filed for divorce. By contrast, at the end of 2015, Mr. Zappala had $501,900 in the bank and only $1,531 in debt. Mr. Shapiro had $1,317,776 in his campaign account, and Mr. Morganelli had $511,973.
After Ms. Kane’s announcement, Mr. Zappala’s campaign manager said in a statement that Mr. Zappala “respects the decision she made today.” Mr. Morganelli said by email that “Ms. Kane’s decision today was very personal and difficult.” Mr. Shapiro was more pointed, saying in a statement: “I commend Kathleen Kane for doing what is right for Pennsylvania by not filing for re-election.” On the Republican side, Mr. Rafferty said by statement that the attorney general’s office “is in disarray and desperately needs new leadership.”
The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee has said its investigation of whether Ms. Kane is “liable to impeachment for misbehavior in office” is expected to take time.
Chris Potter contributed. Karen Langley: email@example.com or 1-717-787-2141 or on Twitter @karen_langley
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