The Pennsylvania AG Democratic Primary

Here in Pennsylvania when we go to the polls in two weeks, there is contested Democratic primary for the Attorney General position. There have only been five elected attorneys general in Pennsylvania, it used to be an appointed position. All five are Republicans. All are men. Currently, there is a (Republican) woman in the position, appointed to fill the position until the election as the previous occupant is now the governor.

There are two good Democratic candidates: Kathleen Kane (website) and Patrick Murphy (website). You know Patrick, he was previously a Congressman, he was early on-board for Obama in 2008, he's an Iraq vet. Patrick has a ton of endorsements, the most recent from David Axelrod. He's the party choice. His legal experience is as a professor and recently as a litigator. If he wins the primary, he has a shot at winning in November.

Kathleen Kane is an actual prosecutor. She's tough, she's truly experienced and in real terms, she is the most qualified candidate to ever have run for this position. Her biggest endorsement is from Bubba the Big Dog, Bill Clinton, who is actively campaigning for her. 

The dilemma for all of us voting in the primary is that Patrick has a much better chance of winning in November compared to Kathleen. At least that would be true in any regular year, but 2012 is odd in a lot of ways. First, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party has a long history of not being able to turn out voters, that is a task normally left to the campaigns, and in that regard, Patrick is much better placed as he has a large organization in the Philly burbs. Second, Pennsylvania does not have any sort of history of electing women on a large scale. Call it the war on women redux, but that's the history. 

What makes this year different is that Obama will have to campaign here, and campaign hard. If you look at a lot of Republican organizations in a lot of states, like Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin, to name only a few, they're in disarray, and they will have trouble turning out their voters.  The Republican party in PA is more organized, and has an entrenched power system in place, especially given the state government. Obama needs to hold Pennsylvania, and we expect to be seeing a lot of him. Further, Bubba the Big Dog has already promised at least 3 joint appearances with Obama, he'll likely also campaign here as a surrogate. Already, he's doing events for Kathleen. A lot of synergy there.

Finally, this may well be the year of the women who run. There aren't as many as there have been in prior years, but this IS the year that the GOP declared open war on women, and the backlash of that may well reverberate well in voting booths around the nation. That is, women voting their own self-interest.

And so, what are you going to do? 



  1. Joe Magid says

    I think it’s important to acknowledge former Congressman Murphy’s lead effort in the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. He was way out in front in the repeal fight and put his Congressional seat at serious risk in doing so.

    There may be some dynamics that would help Kane, but in my mostly amateur but informed political opinion Murphy is in a much stronger position for November.

    Kane’s campaign has been mostly self funded while Murphy’s has significant grassroots support in addition to the institutional Party support you mention. He’s a proven campaigner with name recognition that will be worth several points come November and he’s a great guy with solid progressive credentials.

    I don’t know if Kane is on paper more qualified or not – the AG’s role is much wider than that of a DA/prosecutor – but I do know that Murphy is more than sufficiently qualified and he is definitely my choice in the primary.

  2. burrowsx says

    I find the financial connection of Kane to NE PA extraction industry, through the funding of her father-in-law, troubling. Pat Murphy has put himself time and again on the line for progressive values on consumer protection, on the environment, on the dangers of the extraction industry, and on the protection of individual consumer rights. Kathleen Kane is running a campaign based entirely on prosecutorial competence. The job of the Attorney General is not necessarily to try the cases, but to direct the state’s law firm. We need a progressive advocate in the Attorney General’s office, who will oppose the Corbett Orbit around the Governor’s new reactionary polar axis.

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