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Primary race for Pennsylvania attorney general attracts big-wig endorsements

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April 15, 2012

By Maresa Strano


HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania: With the primary election only two weeks away, the 2012 Democratic candidates for Attorney General of Pennsylvania are enjoying a marginal respite from the relentless self-promotion and voter-ingratiation that can darken the campaign trail and letting some high-wattage help brighten the home stretch.

Kathleen Kane

Former Lackawanna prosecutor Kathleen Kane has been running on her credentials as an attorney who has specialized in putting sexual abuse and violent criminals behind bars. But the credential that is proving most valuable to her current candidacy has nothing to do with her legal qualifications. Back in 2008, Kane worked as a volunteer coordinator in Northeastern Pennsylvania for Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential primary run, and now the Clinton's are returning the favor. Former President Bill Clinton announced his decision to endorse the attorney general candidate in late March, citing her vast trial record as well as his "hope she’ll become the first woman ever elected Attorney General by the people of Pennsylvania.”[1] These sentiments have been propagated through campaign press releases and robocalls ever since. Clinton has been rallying crowds of Democrats over the last month with references to Kane's "steel spine and caring heart," language designed to evoke comparisons to his wife, who carried Pennsylvania in the 2008 primary. Clinton's active involvement has helped the underdog candidate gain some last-minute traction in the race against her front-runner primary opponent.[2]

Patrick Murphy

Rivaling Kane for Democratic votes on April 24 is former two-term Bucks County Congressman Patrick Murphy. As an Iraq veteran serving in the House, he first became the Obama Administration's "go-to guy"[2] for echoing the President's pledge to end the war, and then gained additional progressive clout for championing the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. Murphy was one of the first national legislators to endorse Obama's candidacy in 2008 and now Obama's top campaign adviser, David Axelrod, is throwing his weight behind the Murphy campaign effort. Appearing on Murphy's behalf at a campaign event last week in Philadelphia, Axelrod reflected on how meaningful Murphy's support was in 2008, saying, "I don't think Barack Obama has had a better friend in politics."[2]

David Freed

Pennsylvania has not elected a Democratic attorney general since the office changed from an appointed position in 1978, and the Democratic Party needs a tough contender to challenge the Freed in the general election. At the outset of the 2012 election cycle, Murphy looked like the safer bet to represent the party in the general election against the GOP's uncontested primary candidate, Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed. Bypassing the primary has given Freed the luxury of extra time to devote to preparing a general election strategy and lining his campaign coffer. He has substantially outraised both Democratic candidates (See also: campaign finance), and according to GOP insiders, "Freed’s campaign is Gov. Corbett's top electoral priority in 2012."[3][4]

Observing these examples of the pivotal role past connections can play in campaigns, a pollster at Franklin and Marshall College who has been tracking the recent developments in the race, remarked, "It just goes to show, not all politics is local. All politics are personal."[2]

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