Pennsylvanians should be semi-proud that one in five voters bothered voting Tuesday, considering Rhode Island's 3 percent turnout, most likely fewer people than in your high school class.
Gov. Corbett's handpicked candidate for U.S. Senate, Steve Welch, came in third, drawing half as many votes as Armstrong County coal executive Tom Smith, who spent $5 million of his own capital.
Will this matter in November? Not a lick. No one is going to beat incumbent Bob Casey, living proof that a sterling name, stolid persona, and solid, noncontroversial record guarantee incumbency.
Political neophyte Kathleen Kane, a former Lackawanna County prosecutor, won the Democratic nomination for state attorney general against former two-term Bucks County Congressman Patrick Murphy, who had the backing of virtually every Democratic state leader.
What does this teach us? Endorsements matter little. Who tends to vote in primaries? Voters angry with the folks in charge.
Many Pennsylvania voters are upset with the GOP-controlled, male-dominated (83 percent) legislature, which seems increasingly obsessed with women's ovaries. The governor offered this gynecological advice on proposed mandated fetal ultrasounds for abortion patients: "You just have to close your eyes." (Perhaps this is why, most of the time, he just keeps his mouth closed.)
Kane's response: "I'd like to know how they would feel with a 10-inch wand stuck up them taking photos of their insides." She had me at 10-inch wand.
A striking, 5-foot-10 Temple Law grad and Gilmore Girls actress Lauren Graham look-alike, Kane seems to be precisely the female leader needed in Harrisburg, which ranks 42d in the nation for women legislators. She told me, "We're not taking this lying down with our legs in the stirrups."
Kane, 45, the daughter of a former secretary and janitor, had the major financial backing of her husband, who owns a Scranton trucking company and pumped a couple of million dollars into her primary race.
But money alone will not win an election. Kane ran a good race and only improved as a candidate - she was down 16 points last month - while Murphy, with a strong record and all those endorsements, seemed as if he were campaigning for a different position. The A.G. job is jokingly referred to as "aspiring governor," and Murphy appears to have his eyes on a greater prize.
Kane won 61 of the commonwealth's 67 counties, losing in the Philadelphia metro region's five counties and Lehigh. She faces Republican Cumberland County D.A. David Freed, who ran unopposed in the primary. If she wins, Kane would be the first Democrat and first woman elected attorney general since it became an elected position in 1980.
"We had a rally in Bucks County," she says, "and it was amazing how upset the men were about what's happening and the lack of female leadership."
Her top issues are fighting crime, "making sure assault weapons are banned, our police officers are safe, and illegal guns aren't resold." Kane wants to be proactive on consumer protection. "States need to be allowed to pursue financial crimes, mortgage crimes, student-loan frauds."
On the environment, she's worried about the cozy relationship between the governor and other legislators with natural gas companies. "We don't have enough regulation in Pennsylvania," she says, yet we have elected officials that have "taken hundreds of thousands of campaign contributions from the industry." Kane adds, "We don't want to let it get so far that our water is contaminated. We can work with other departments and the auditor general to take a crucial role in providing government oversight and holding companies accountable."
She still can't figure out why, other than politics, a time-consuming grand jury was appointed to investigate former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
In a commonwealth not known for change, "Democrats really do have a diverse ticket now," one that will feature Obama, Casey, and now Kane. "It's going to be an important race. That's why I got involved. We are at a point in Pennsylvania where we're shocked by what's happening, and it's time for our voices to be heard."
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