AG race comes to fore with Kane’s legal woes

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

Pennsylvanians will vote in their primary on Tuesday and the focus has largely surrounded the races for the major party nominations for the Presidency, Senate, and House of Representatives.

While these primaries are all very important, the state government races have a much more direct impact on the lives of Pennsylvanians.
Our votes are also more powerful in these races because of the smaller voting body.

Pennsylvanians represent a relatively small chunk of all Americans, controlling less than 10 percent of the Electoral College. We control two percent of the Senate, like every other state. And even though we get our proportionate share of the 435 representatives in the House, that power is disproportionately concentrated in House leadership. State elections, on the other hand, have a smaller electorate and put people directly into positions of power. Therefore, voters have to pay attention to these races and cast well-informed votes.
More specifically, Pennsylvania voters should give special consideration to the Attorney General race this Tuesday.

The Attorney General serves as the chief legal and law enforcement officer of the Commonwealth, particularly charged with prosecuting public corruption and organized crime.

The Attorney General also serves on seven different state boards and committees. These responsibilities are essential to a functioning state government.

Usually, it is safe to re-elect incumbents who have not done damage in state offices because they have proven they can do the job. This year, however, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane has exited the race.

Kane is currently under indictment for perjury and obstruction following a leak of confidential information to a local newspaper. Regardless of how we feel about Kane’s actions and indictment, we must take the time and do the research on all candidates in order to judge who is the most qualified to take over for Kane.

Thirty minutes and a critical Google search on each of your party’s candidates are all it takes to turn up some distinct differences among their intentions for the position. We found one important difference — some make their platforms clear and some don’t talk about it at all.

On the Democratic side, two candidates have a realistic shot at the nomination. Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro and District Attorney of Allegheny County Stephen Zappala are in a very tight race for the Democratic nomination, with John Morganelli trailing behind.

Shapiro is currently running with President Barack Obama’s endorsement. Environmentalism has been a core part of Shapiro’s campaign, which is largely consistent with what the Obama administration has been pushing in recent months. Shapiro hassaid that he will pursue legal action against companies where there are damages to water and air due to fracking. He has also been a proponent of cracking down on gun violence, advocating for increased policing of firearms and fewer loopholes for gun purchases.

Shapiro currently serves as a county commissioner in Montgomery County in southeast Pennsylvania near Philadelphia. However, county commissioner is a largely administrative role that heads county government, a significantly smaller job than attorney general.

Stephen Zappala, a Pittsburgh native and Allegheny County District Attorney since 1998, is running his platform on his prosecutorial record and his story. He’s a hard-working Pennsylvanian from an immigrant family with a “passion for fairness.” Zappala paid for his undergraduate degree at the University of Pittsburgh by working as a “card-carrying union Boilermaker.” Then he earned his law degree at Duquesne, and, after 14 years of private practice, he went on to serve five terms as District Attorney. In his years of service, Zappala has been tough on child abuse, animal abuse, elder abuse, domestic violence, veteran’s issues, and public corruption.

Even though his campaign lacks any real platform, Zappala is neck and neck with Shapiro in the polls. We endorse Shapiro for his dedication to action over Zappala’s empty platform.

The Republican race looks more cut and dry. John Rafferty’s campaign has raised more money and received more endorsements than his competitor Joseph Peters.

Peters began his career as a police officer in Scranton, then moved to the White House to manage the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program in 26 American cities. He has a tough record on drug and terror, and made his name by convicting Philadelphia mob boss “Little Nicky” Scarfo and his entire crew. He claims to be tough on drugs and terror, but he is also tough on gun reform and women’s reproductive rights. In addition, he served as Communications Director under Kathleen Kane.

Opponent and likely victor John Rafferty has served as State Senator of the 44th district, including parts of Montgomery, Chester, and Burkes Counties, since 2003, and before that worked as a private attorney. Like Zappala, Rafferty is taking the good guy with a good story approach. In a statement following the Pennsylvania Attorney General Candidate Forum, Rafferty said: “My number one priority is to restore integrity and bring solid principled leadership to the Office of Attorney General. The Office of Attorney General has suffered from scandals, controversy and most important a lack of strong leadership.” He went on to reinforce Peters’ connection to Kane, still not offering any platform items beyond reintroducing integrity.

Despite our feelings on Peters’ pro-life and pro-second amendment stance, we have more confidence in his strength and his qualifications for the office. Peters’ platform has clear vision and direction, but Rafferty’s depends on his past more than his future.
Whether you agree that the race should come to Shapiro and Peters or not, you should research your party’s candidates and their platforms so you have an opinion. Show up to the polls this week, and cast a vote you believe in.