Ballotpedia's 2012 General Election Preview Articles: Pennsylvania State Executive Officials

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October 29, 2012

By Maresa Strano

Portal:State Executive Officials

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania: Three state executive offices are up for election in Pennsylvania this year: attorney general, state treasurer, and auditor general.

Between the three races, only one incumbent - Pennsylvania Treasurer Rob McCord (D) - is seeking re-election in 2012. First elected in 2004, incumbent auditor general Jack Wagner (D) could not run this year due to term limits, and current attorney general Linda Kelly (R) is stepping aside upon the expiration of the term she was appointed to by now Governor Tom Corbett. Kelly's Senate confirmation in 2010 was predicated on a "gentleman's agreement," a staple of Pennsylvania state politics, whereby state-row appointees pledge to not seek a full term to the position in the subsequent election cycle. The open seats for auditor general, and especially for attorney general, have made for an intense campaign season.

In Pennsylvania, all polls are open from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM, Eastern Time.[1] (See also: State Poll Opening and Closing Times (2012))

The following is an overview of what Keystone voters can look forward to as they prepare to hit the polls November 6th:

 Candidates for Attorney General 
See also: Pennsylvania attorney general election, 2012
Democratic Party Kathleen Kane (D)
Republican Party David Freed (R)
Libertarian Party Marakay Rogers (Libertarian)

The incumbent attorney general, Linda Kelly (R), was appointed by former Attorney General and current Governor Tom Corbett (R) upon his election to the governorship in 2010. Kelly chose not to seek election to a full term this year, which left Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed unopposed in the party's primary. An active member of the Republican party, his campaign has been called "Governor Corbett's top electoral priority."[2] Besides Gov. Corbett's endorsement, Freed's candidacy is buoyed by the financial and nominal support of Pennsylvania's GOP, as reflected in fundraising figures (he reported having over $1.5 million on hand as of the most recent campaign finance deadline) and long list of endorsements. Freed has touted his managerial and prosecutorial experience as long serving elected District Attorney for Cumberland County throughout his campaign, all the while standing squarely on party lines on the contentious issues reverberating around Pennsylvania today, including the voter-ID law, the multi-state lawsuit to challenge Obamacare, and the proposed review of then attorney general Corbett's handling of the Sandusky investigation before transitioning to the governorship. Unfortunately for Freed, even before fall approached, the climate for supporting each of those three issues had chilled dramatically.[3]

Before the primary, in which ex-Lackawanna prosecutor Kathleen Kane narrowly defeated former congressman and Iraq veteran and presumptive nominee Patrick Murphy, operatives for Freed's campaign referred to the Democratic candidates as "the strongest field Democrats have fielded for attorney general"[3] since 1978, when Pennsylvania voters approved a Constitutional amendment that changed the office from an appointed position to an elected position. The first attorney general election was held in 1980; no Democrat has ever won the office. (See also: Article IV, Section 4 of the state constitution). The Democratic primary garnered race considerable attention, stirring talk of history repeating itself: The 2008 Democratic Presidential primary had Pennsylvania's Democrats split, likewise, between advancing the potential political superstar candidate and the opportunity to break ground with a female nominee. The symmetry became more pronounced in March when Bill Clinton came out in support of Kane, who left her position in the Lackawanna DA's office in 2007 to coordinate volunteers for Hillary Rodham Clinton's primary campaign in northeastern Pennsylvania.[4] Clinton continued to be an asset to Kane's campaign after the primary.

The attorney general contest was originally rated as a toss-up, but Governing Politics recently shifted the contest to leaning Democratic as a result of Kane's steady lead in the polls and in fundraising.[5] Indeed, the most recent polls show Kane in a commanding lead, with as high as a 13 percentage point edge over Freed.[6]

Also in the race is Libertarian Marakay Rogers, whose candidacy was only certified due to a drawn out legal challenge by Republicans over signature irregularities identified on a several statewide Libertarian candidates' nominating petitions.[7] Rogers told the York Dispatch that she would like the death penalty abolished because it serves no purpose except to offer empty relief to the public. She also believes that "the state needs to at least decriminalize medical marijuana, preferably decriminalizing the plant entirely."[7]

 Candidates for State Treasurer 

See also: Pennsylvania down ballot state executive elections, 2012
Democratic Party Rob McCord Incumbent (D)
Republican Party Diana Irey Vaughan (R)
Libertarian Party Patricia Fryman (Libertarian)

Incumbent Rob McCord (D) is seeking re-election. He was first elected in 2008. McCord ran unopposed in the Democratic primary and will face Diana Irey Vaughan (R) and Patricia Fryman (Libertarian) in the general election.[8]

Washington County Commissioner since 1995, Vaughan's campaign has made an impact in a race where she is financially outmatched - reports show she has $22,000 on hand compared to McCord's $2 million - and representing the underdog party: Pennsylvania has seldom elected a Republican to the state treasurer's office in the last half century.[9] The limited polling data available in the run-up to Election Day has McCord leading Vaughan by a margin that would feel more secure if not for the roughly 30 percent of voters still polling as undecided. This is Vaughan's first bid for statewide office, although she ran unsuccessfully for U.S. House in 2006.

McCord's campaign has focused on what he has accomplished during his first term leading the treasurer's office. He emphasizes his successful efforts to streamline payment processing, and overseeing the recoup of over $400 million to Pennsylvania's piggy bank since taking office in 2009.[9] McCord recently called the treasurer's office "the most important office in Pennsylvania that no one knows about."[9] Notwithstanding this low-profile status, rumors abound that he may be tapped as a potential challenger to Gov. Tom Corbett in 2014, to which McCord responded with reassurance about his dedication to his re-election race, continuing, "I'm flattered and I take it as a good market signal that we're doing a good job at Treasury."[9]

Venango County's Patricia Fryman, the Libertarian nominee for state treasurer in 2012, outlined her plans for the office on her campaign facebook page. "When elected State Treasurer, I will scrutinize all payments before I sign any checks," she wrote. Fryman said she would coordinate more actively with the state auditor to root out irresponsible government spending, citing the wasteful activities of an obsolete Turnpike Commission under McCord's watch.[10]

 Candidates for Auditor General 

See also: Pennsylvania down ballot state executive elections, 2012
Democratic Party Eugene DePasquale (D)
Republican Party John Maher (R)
Libertarian Party Betsy Summers (Libertarian)

First elected in 2004, Democratic incumbent Jack Wagner could not seek re-election as Pennsylvania Auditor General due to term limits. Despite the open seat, only three candidates filed to run. Two advanced past the primary, state representatives Eugene DePasquale (D) and John Maher (R), who will face off in the general election on November 6th along with Libertarian Betsy Summers.

The battle between DePasquale, who ran unopposed in the primary, and Maher, who won a landslide victory over Frank Pinto for the Republican nomination for state auditor, began in earnest immediately after the April 24th primary election. DePasquale jabbed at Maher by recommending voters to consider that as auditor general Maher would be beholden to Governor Tom Corbett, who was the top donor for Maher's campaign in the first quarter campaign finance period.[11]

Maher, who is running on his ample experience as a career CPA, retaliated by saying that the governor is not personally involved in most of the transactions the auditor oversees, and that he "would hope for a better understanding of the office by someone who seeks it."[12]

DePasquale and Maher have both come under fire for running for re-election to their House seats concurrent with their bid for Auditor. Both are unopposed in their House races and if either wins the Auditor post a special election will have to be held for their House seat, which is estimated to cost between $100,000 and $150,000.[13]

Tim Potts, President of Democracy Rising, stated, "Holding one public office while running for another provides a taxpayer subsidy of the incumbents’ political campaigns. This is not what voters want. By 87 percent to 12 percent, voters want to require elected officials to resign from their current office as soon as they decide to seek a different office."[13]

Maher and DePasquale both said they have heard from many constituents who support their decision to seek both offices.[14]

See also