SCRANTON, Pa. -- Kathleen Kane became Pennsylvania's first Democrat and first woman elected attorney general Tuesday night, easily defeating Republican David Freed.
Ms. Kane, who spent 12 years as an assistant district attorney in the Lackawanna County prosecutor's office, addressed a crowded victory party at the Radisson hotel here shortly after 11 p.m.
She said she was particularly proud of becoming the commonwealth's first elected female attorney general, describing it as an important milestone for her nieces on stage behind her.
"We expanded the boundaries for women in Pennsylvania," Ms. Kane said, drawing cheers from the crowd. "We have expanded the boundaries for your daughters."
She spent much of the evening watching returns in a hotel suite with her family, while Mr. Freed could be seen at several points greeting supporters as they trickled into his gathering near Harrisburg.
The Cumberland County district attorney said both candidates ran a tough race and congratulated her on a "sound victory."
"After the primary election when Kathleen won, I sent her a text message and I said either way this turns out I think Pennsylvania dodged a bullet because no matter what, we'll have somebody who does have prosecutorial experience in the attorney general's office," Mr. Freed said in a brief speech Tuesday night, with his wife and three children at his side.
A victory for Ms. Kane brings the first change in political control for the attorney general's office since it became an elected position in 1980.
While current attorney general Linda Kelly also is a woman, she was appointed by Tom Corbett in 2011 when he stepped down to become governor. Pennsylvania voters have never elected a woman to as their top law-enforcement officer.
The Democrat pledged throughout the race to bring more change than just a pair of demographic firsts.
She pummelled Mr. Corbett and state prosecutors over their handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse probe, promising to investigate why it took three years to bring charges and whether too few resources were allocated to the case.
She also promised to use the office to weigh in on pending legislation if elected, often pointing to the shelved ultrasound bill or the voter ID law as examples issues where the attorney general should be vocal.
Ms. Kane entered this year's race as a political novice, with her main experience coming from work on Democrat Hillary Clinton's presidential bid in 2008.
She portrayed herself as the prosecutor to primary opponent and former Bucks County congressman Patrick Murphy's politician, defeating him by more than 5 percentage points.
The Democratic pair traded increasingly negative campaign ads, with Mr. Murphy alleging that she inflated her experience by saying she prosecuted 3,000 cases when she only tried two dozen in a courtroom. Ms. Kane responded by pointing out that the former Army judge advocate general never tried a case in Pennsylvania.
In the fall contest, Mr. Freed reused that the attack against Ms. Kane's prosecution statistics to bolster his argument that he as district attorney was better suited for the job.
She responded by depicting him as Mr. Corbett's "hand-picked successor," pointing to moves by the governor to discourage state Sen. John Rafferty of Montgomery County from entering the race.
The television spots Ms. Kane purchased with her $5.2 million war chest were positive and focused on her biography. She faced criticism for receiving $2 million of her campaign funds from her husband, who runs a large trucking firm in northeastern Pennsylvania, while Mr. Freed raised a little more than $2 million total over the past year.
"This race was never about politics," Ms. Kane said Tuesday night. "It was always about people and responding to their needs."
Harrisburg Bureau Chief Laura Olson: email@example.com or 1-717-787-4254. Karen Langley contributed.