HARRISBURG - Former Lackawanna County prosecutor Kathleen Kane declared victory Tuesday night in her hard-fought battle for the Democratic nomination for attorney general over former Congressman Patrick Murphy of Bucks County.
Kane, 45, of Clarks Summit, who spent 13 years as an assistant district attorney, edged out Murphy to become the first woman of either party nominated to run for Pennsylvania attorney general.
She will face Republican District Attorney David Freed of Cumberland County, who ran unopposed, in November.
Kane beat Murphy despite his considerable ties in the vote-rich Philadelphia area, where he had won the backing of city Democratic leader Bob Brady and other party leaders. Murphy served two terms in Congress from Bucks County before voters turned him out in 2010 in favor of U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick - the same man Murphy had beaten to win the job in 2006.
This year, Kane and Murphy waged a costly, mudslinging primary race filled with negative ads and heated exchanges over each other's records and positions on issues.
Since the office of attorney general became an elected post in 1980, no Democrat has occupied it. Some experts say 2012 may be the Democrats' best hope yet.
"Both candidates have good prosecutorial backgrounds, and in the past, Democrats have run political types, not prosecutors," said G. Terry Madonna, pollster and political analyst at Franklin and Marshall College. "The Republicans have always run tough law-and-order prosecutor types."
Madonna said Kane would head into the general election with several positives: support from a powerful Democrat region in the Northeast, and few funding worries.
Kane's campaign so far has been backed largely by her husband, Chris, who owns a successful trucking firm in Scranton.
Freed, who is endorsed by Gov. Corbett, will likely find himself having to take sides on some of Corbett's controversial positions.
One particular hot-button issue all but certain to emerge this fall is women's health care and Corbett's support of forced ultrasound legislation now pending in the General Assembly.
Kane strongly opposes the bill and says that, if it is approved, it would be "unenforceable."
"One of the interesting things about this race is that contraception and women's health care has gotten women focused on this issue when they look at candidates," said Madonna.
Corbett left in the middle of his own second term as attorney general to run for governor, naming Linda Kelly to serve as interim attorney general. Kane and Murphy have criticized Corbett's record as attorney general and vowed to not seek higher office if they won the post.
The attorney general is paid $152,000 a year overseeing 700 people and has a budget of $81 million to investigate and prosecute everything from child predators and Capitol corruption to tax delinquencies and consumer fraud.
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