from Iowa nine years ago.
"Ed Mezvinsky " Ernie Preate says, "has no record."
"Ed Mezvinsky," he adds, "is a lawyer by profession, but that's about as far as his legal career goes. He's never argued a case, never written a brief, never filed an appeal.
"And yet, he's running for the top law enforcement job in Pennsylvania. I can't buy that."
Ernie Preate is the classic prosecutor and he campaigns like one. His voice rises in indignation and he waves a clenched fist into the air to drive home a telling point. Then, with a sigh, he lowers his voice to a whisper as he uses softness and understatement to drive home another one.
Ernie Preate on opponent Ed Mezvinsky:
"He's a businessman and not a very successful one at that. He's been involved in a series of ventures in the exporting of soybeans to Third World countries. And several of those ventures have ended up in court with Mr. Mezvinsky and some of his partners defendants in sizable suits."
Ernie Preate loosens his tie, pulls his pants up at the belt line and goes for the long ball.
"But you ain't heard nothin' yet," he says, mocking Al Jolson.
"Let us consider the type of people Ed Mezvinsky does business with. One of his partners, Eugene H. Pietsch, of Des Moines, Iowa, was convicted in 1981 of storing $200,000 worth of marijuana in his warehouse in Iowa - convicted on a felony charge of possession with intent to deliver marijuana.
"And two months after the conviction, guess what happened? This Mr. Pietsch became one of Mr. Mezvinsky's partners in a deal to ship $8.16 million worth of soybeans from Camden to Egypt.
"And," Ernie Preate says, his voice rising again, "this man wants to be the next attorney general of the commonwealth? Come on."
What does Ed Mezvinsky, the former Democratic state chairman, have to say about all this? He says that Ernie Preate accepted campaign contributions from known organized-crime figures.
"When I found out where it came from, I returned it," Ernie Preate said. ''But ask Mr. Mezvinsky about the convicted drug dealer he had for a partner."
Mr. Mezvinsky has said that he was unaware of the conviction.
"I rest my case," Ernie Preate said.
Ernie Preate was some kind of a DA in Scranton. On his first day in office he shut down one of Scranton's most famous saloons for after-hours violations.
It so happened that the owner of the bar was a nephew of the man who was then chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. I remember the case very well because when Ernie Preate's men ordered the bar closed, the proprietor couldn't find a key to lock the door.
"The bar had been open around the clock for 30 years," Ernie Preate said at the time. "Before I was DA the only time they closed the bar was on Sunday morning so the bartenders could go to Mass."
Now the daring young prosecutor has stepped up a few notches in class. He's giving a little color to what has otherwise been a sleeping pill of a campaign in Pennsylvania.