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Democrats for Pa. Attorney General outline qualifications

By Randy Kraft, WFMZ.com Reporter, RKraft@wfmz.com
Published On: Apr 21 2012 10:18:06 AM CDT
Updated On: Apr 24 2012 10:56:11 PM CDT

In Tuesday’s primary, voters will decide if Kathleen Kane or Patrick Murphy will be the Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania Attorney General, facing Republican candidate David Freed in November’s general election to become the state’s chief law enforcement officer.

The two Democrats live at opposite ends of eastern Pennsylvania.

Murphy, 38, lives in Bristol. Kane, 45, lives in Clarks Summit. Both are lifelong residents of the state. Kane’s hometown is Scranton and Murphy’s is Philadelphia.

Here are the two candidates’ responses to WFMZ’s questions:

WHY DO YOU WANT TO BECOME STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL?

KANE: I am running for Attorney General because Pennsylvanians deserve a prosecutor who will fight for their rights, not a career politician. As Attorney General, I promise to fight with the same passion that I fought with as a prosecutor in Lackawanna County for over 12 years. Pennsylvanians need an Attorney General who has stood on the front lines with law enforcement, prosecuted cases involving consumer and corporate fraud and, most importantly, brought those individuals who harm and abuse our children to justice. Pennsylvanians deserve an Attorney General who has spent a lifetime fighting for victims’ rights.

MURPHY: My father served as a cop for 22 years. Law enforcement is in my blood. I’ve dedicated my life to protecting Pennsylvania families. Working families are under attack like never before. Our basic rights are being threatened every day. Whether my opponent understands it or not, the Attorney General has the power to fight back. I’ll fight to protect the middle class, preserve the environment and defend women’s rights. I volunteered for combat after 9/11. I prosecuted terrorists in Iraq and dangerous criminals here at home. I strengthened laws that protect consumers and fought to defend women’s rights. I will do whatever it takes to keep our families safe and ensure that every Pennsylvanian is treated equally under the law.

DO YOU HAVE ANY TOP PRIORITY ISSUE OR ISSUES YOU HOPE TO ADDRESS AS ATTORNEY GENERAL?

KANE: The first issue I hope to address is to increase funding to the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. By increasing funding for the bureau, the Attorney General can better protect Pennsylvanians from consumer fraud, as well as the untold amount of fraud perpetuated by America’s largest financial institutions against the citizens of Pennsylvania. I promise to take an aggressive stance towards the prosecution of consumer and financial fraud. The Attorney General’s Office should not just be a shield for the citizens of our Commonwealth, but also a sword to fight back against those that break our laws and harm our citizens.

Secondly, I would fight to increase funding for the Attorney General’s Criminal Law Division’s Environmental Crimes Section. It is the mission of the Environmental Crimes Section to investigate and prosecute crimes against Pennsylvania’s environment. Never has this section of the Attorney General’s Office been more important to the citizens of Pennsylvania.

Since the discovery of natural gas in Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale formations, dozens of oil and gas companies have descended upon our commonwealth to extract their riches from the earth. Using a process called fracking, these companies pump unknown chemicals into the ground, which may poison our groundwater or harm our citizens. We need to make sure that the Attorney General’s Office has the resources necessary to protect Pennsylvanians and our environment from the dangers of fracking and ensure our environment is not destroyed by the natural gas “gold rush” going on throughout our Commonwealth today.

As Attorney General, I would no longer employ the grand jury as a means of investigating child sexual abuse cases. A grand jury -- while a useful investigatory body in certain matters -- operates too slowly in cases of child sex abuse to be efficient. Instead of utilizing a Grand Jury in the Sandusky case, I would have had him arrested after the first victims came forward. Removing child predators from our streets should be our first priority and, as Attorney General, I would use my experience to ensure cases like this are never mishandled again.

MURPHY: We need to address the systemic failures that have put Pennsylvania children at risk and crack down on child sex abuse. When I read the indictment of Jerry Sandusky, my stomach turned and my heart ached for the victims. I’ve seen first hand what this type of crime can do to a child. When I was in the JAG Corps I prosecuted a Navy commander who abused a 7-year-old girl. We need to stop these monsters before they hurt another child.

I helped pass a law to crack down on child predators that use the Internet to prey on children. We need to be more aggressive in investigating and prosecuting child sex crimes. I’ve laid out proposals to improve information sharing among law enforcement jurisdictions so we know exactly where these suspects are. I’ll work to strengthen the Child Predator Unit and the specialized police units that target child sex predators.

We can do more, and as Attorney General, I will stop at nothing to keep our kids safe. We also need an Attorney General who is willing to fight for what’s right. Prosecuting crime is a big part of the job, but knowing when to take a stand is just as important. I’ll bring a new, aggressive vision to this office and for the first time, we will have an Attorney General who is willing to do what it takes to protect the middle class, preserve the environment and defend women’s rights.

WHAT MAKES YOU A BETTER CANDIDATE THAN YOUR OPPONENT?
KANE: I have always believed that the Office of Pennsylvania Attorney General needs to be held by a prosecutor, not a politician. As a former prosecutor from Lackawanna County, I have prosecuted thousands of cases, intricately know the laws of Pennsylvania, and have the experience necessary to perform this job at its highest level. There is no substitute for real trial experience, and in our Democratic Primary, I am the only candidate who has actually tried a case in a Pennsylvania courtroom

MURPHY: There are fundamental differences between Kathleen and myself. I support a woman's right to choose and have consistently fought to protect reproductive rights. That’s why I will not enforce or defend the unconstitutional ultrasound bill if it becomes law. Kathleen has criticized me for taking that position and says the Attorney General has no choice but to stand by the law. What she doesn’t seem to understand is that the Attorney General’s first obligation is to the Constitution, not to the governor or legislature.

I’ve fought for the environment, to hold gas drillers accountable and ensure that our citizens are healthy and safe. I have vowed that polluters will no longer get a slap on the wrist when I’m Attorney General – I will hold them accountable. After watching him turn a blind eye to environmental crime, Kathleen donated to Tom Corbett, who has practically given away the state to the Marcellus Shale industry.

I've fought to protect the rights of workers and defend the middle class, while Kathleen and her company have fought unions at every turn. She opposes laws vital to increasing wages and improving safety standards for workers.

HAVE YOU EVER RUN FOR ELECTIVE OFFICE BEFORE?

KANE: I have never before sought elective office

MURPHY: In 2006, I was the first Iraq war veteran elected to Congress. I represented the 8th Congressional District for two terms.

WHAT IS YOUR LEGAL EXPERIENCE?

KANE: Upon graduating from Temple University’s Beasley School of Law, I became an Associate Attorney in the Philadelphia Office of Post & Schell. Always wanting to serve the public, I decided to leave Philadelphia and returned home to Lackawanna County where I served for 12 years as an Assistant District Attorney, eventually being placed in charge of our office’s Child Sexual Assault Unit.

MURPHY: I graduated from Widener School of Law in Harrisburg before joining the Army JAG Corps. I served as a prosecutor in the JAG Corps for five years, trying cases in four different jurisdictions that included both military and federal courts. I served with 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq, where I prosecuted terrorists who wanted to kill American soldiers. Before that I taught Constitutional Law at West Point. In between the Army and Congress, I worked at Cozen O’Connor, and I now work as a partner in the litigation department of the law firm Fox Rothschild.

IF VOTERS DON”T KNOW EITHER CANDIDATE, AND DON’T KNOW MUCH ABOUT WHAT THE ATTORNEY GENERAL DOES, HOW DO YOU CONVINCE THEM OF THE IMPORTANCE OF YOUR RACE?
KANE: The Office of the Attorney General is of great importance to every citizen of Pennsylvania. For example, the Sandusky child abuse case is not going to be prosecuted by our current Attorney General, but by the Attorney General Pennsylvanian’s elect this fall. As a mother and a prosecutor who has spent her career prosecuting criminals charged with sexual assault, I know without a doubt that I am the best candidate for this job.

MURPHY: If you’ve ever worried about whether or not your children are safe, if you’re concerned about the quality of your drinking water or your economic security, then you care who we elect as Attorney General. I’ve been all over the Commonwealth explaining to voters that this office can really make a difference in their lives and people are responding.

WHAT WOULD YOU MOST LIKE VOTERS TO KNOW ABOUT YOU?

KANE: I am a proud mother of two wonderful boys and was recently endorsed and described by President Clinton as a Prosecutor with a “Steel spine and a caring heart”.
MURPHY: That I will stop at nothing to keep their family safe.