Pennsylvania primary polls open tomorrow

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April 23, 2012


By Greg Janetka and Maresa Strano

HARRISBURG, PA: Only two state executive races have a contested primary. In the Democratic and Republican primary elections for attorney general, state auditor, and treasurer, voters have just two primary races to decide at the polls Tuesday. The first is the Democratic nomination for attorney general; the second is the Republican nomination for auditor. Featured below are details about how the races and their respective candidates' campaigns have developed since February's filing deadline.

Linda Kelly is not seeking election to a full term in 2012

With the current officeholder, appointee Linda Kelly (R), stepping aside this year after a two-year stint serving out the unexpired term of former Attorney General and current Governor of Pennsylvania Tom Corbett, the open seat drew a small but formidable pool of candidates vying to become the state's next top law enforcement officer.

Cumberland County District Attorney and Republican candidate David Freed is running unopposed in his party's primary. An active member of the Republican party, his campaign has been called "Governor Corbett's top electoral priority."[1] Besides Gov. Corbett's endorsement, Freed's candidacy is buoyed by the financial and nominal support of Pennsylvania's GOP, as reflected in his impressive fundraising figures and long list of endorsements. So far, Freed has stood squarely on party lines regarding the hot-button issues reverberating around Pennsylvania today, including the new voter-ID law and the multi-state lawsuit to challenge Obamacare (he supports both). He is sure to be using the time the uncontested primary has afforded him to prepare for future general election debates on these and other issues with whichever candidate earns the Democratic nomination this Tuesday.

Operatives for Freed's campaign have referred to the race's Democratic candidates, Kathleen Kane and Patrick Murphy, as "the strongest field Democrats have fielded for Attorney general"[2] 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) Freed is hoping to carry on his party's legacy in the office.

On the other side of the aisle, Murphy versus Kane has shaped up to be a heated, verging on polarizing, contest between two qualified candidates with compatible issue positions but dissonant backgrounds. Both candidates, for example, oppose the state's new photo voter-ID legislation for its putative disenfranchising consequences on minority voters, but say they would enforce it anyway, if elected; They also agree on their opposition to the ultra-sound bill now pending in the State House and have both pledged not to enforce it if it does pass; They are both outspoken proponents of withdrawing Pennsylvania's participation in the lawsuit against Obama's Affordable Care Act.

Their differences are most visible on their resumes. Kane is a career Keystone prosecutor with no expressed ambitions beyond the office and a history of crossing party lines, including donating to Corbett's campaign and appearances at Democrats for McCain events in 2008. Murphy is a former congressman and liberal activist whose courtroom experience has taken place primarily in the JAG Corps instead of Pennsylvania.[3]

The race has stirred 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 as Assistant District Attorney of Lackawanna County in 2007 to coordinate volunteers for Hillary Rodham Clinton's primary campaign in northeastern Pennsylvania.[4]

Although still the favorite to take the nomination, the once clear path to the general election for the former U.S. Representative and Army veteran has become complicated for Murphy. The gap separating the candidates in the polls has narrowed alongside an onslaught of Kane campaign advertisements and Clinton's support efforts. Both candidates are expected to get a fair shake from voters tomorrow for the chance to move on to the general election.

Auditor General Jack Wagner is term-limited and could not seek re-election.

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.

Current state Rep. John Maher will face Frank Pinto in the Republican primary. Pinto, who served for 26 years as president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Association of Community Bankers, has stressed his leadership skills, while Maher has harped on Pinto for not being a CPA, stating, “It’s clear to me that the state is in fiscal trouble. And it’s clear to me that the state deserves an auditor as auditor general."[5]

Dismissing that notion, Pinto said, “You know, you have 67 CPA’s, 52 certified floor examiners, 400 auditors in that office already — so there are some skill sets, and you need to choreograph them to make sure that they get the job done right, and I’m not knocking CPA’s, but I don’t think it’s necessary for you to be a CPA to be a leader.”[6]

Current Democratic state Rep. Eugene DePasquale is unopposed for his party's nomination and will face the winner of the Republican primary in the general election. 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.[7]

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.”[7]

Maher and DePasquale both said they have heard from many constituents who support their decision to seek both offices.[8]

State Treasurer McCord was first elected in 2008.

With no primary challenge, Democratic incumbent Pennsylvania Treasurer Rob McCord will move on to the general election in his bid for a second term. When he was first elected in 2008 he had to overcome three Democratic challengers to secure the party's nomination.

Republican candidate and current Washington County Commissioner Diana Irey Vaughan is also unopposed in the primary and will face McCord in the general election.

See also


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