HARRISBURG - House Democratic Leader Todd Eachus suggested yesterday that Republican Tom Corbett take a cue from his counterpart in Virginia and consider resigning as attorney general if he runs for governor next year.

Last month, Virginia's head prosecutor, Bob McDonnell, stepped down to seek the state's top office, saying it wouldn't be fair to the taxpayers to keep one office while pursuing the other.

Corbett "will have to judge, when he actually announces his candidacy, whether he can balance the two, both from a political point of view and from the efficacy of taxpayers," Eachus (D., Luzerne) told the monthly luncheon of the Pennsylvania Press Club yesterday in Harrisburg.

But Eachus fell short of calling on Corbett to step down. Nor did Eachus accuse Corbett - as some Democrats have suggested - of partisanship in his 26-month-old corruption probe known as Bonusgate.

"The attorney general's got to proceed with his investigation the way he sees fit," said Eachus.

Two weeks ago, Corbett announced that he had formed an exploratory committee to examine a gubernatorial bid and had not officially declared his intentions.

John Brabender, a senior campaign adviser to Corbett, said that, at this stage, speculating on whether Corbett would simultaneously serve as attorney general and seek the governor's seat was ridiculous.

"A lot of people will see through this. Any time anyone in the legislature is trying to back off a corruption investigation, that should give people some pause," Brabender said. "Clearly, Tom Corbett's investigation is having some impact."

In July, a dozen House Democratic insiders were charged with, among other things, carrying out a scheme to give large government bonuses to legislative staffers as rewards for working hard on campaigns.

Corbett has vowed that the probe would examine both Democrats and Republicans from the House and Senate, but he has yet to file a single count against a member of the GOP in the Bonusgate matter.

In Virginia, McDonnell's move came after a long-held tradition. Since the 1950s, with only one exception, top prosecutors in the Old Dominion have stepped down to run for governor.

That's not the case here, however.

Ernie Preate, in 1994, and Mike Fisher, in 2002, both stayed on as attorney general as they pursued, unsuccessfully, the job of Pennsylvania governor.

Still, Eachus called McDonnell's approach "a model you can look to."

"Whether you think it's right or wrong," Eachus said yesterday, "there are other state attorneys general that felt it was the right thing to do."