Running with a background in Congress and traditional political backing did not play at a time when so many are fed up with Congress and traditional politics.
So, Democrats on Tuesday put their faith in former Lackawanna County prosecutor Kathleen Kane, a first-time candidate, to take a shot at being the first Democrat to win the office of state attorney general.
She won everywhere outside the Philly media market, which, because of low local turnout, gave her a 53-47 statewide victory.
It didn’t hurt that she was the first major-party woman to have run for the job.
It sure didn’t hurt that she was able to self-finance.
And it didn’t hurt that many Democrats believe the former A.G., now-Gov. Corbett, used the office to run for higher office and that she has renounced such opportunism.
Kane’s slogan, pushed over and over throughout the race, was that she’s “a prosecutor, not a politician.”
It was very few words with a very large impact.
And although multiple (and usually predictable) factors contribute to election outcomes, this primary had a little something new.
For one thing, the national dialogue, sincerely or fraudulently, has been stuck on “wars” over women’s health care, contraception and stay-at-home moms.
Since there are more women than men and since women tend to vote in higher proportions than men, it was a good time to be a woman on the ballot.
For another: Pennsylvania’s notorious for lack of women in posts of power.
There’s only one woman in the congressional delegation (U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz) and no women in state-elected executive jobs, and just 17 percent of lawmakers are women, which earns a rank of 42nd in the nation.
This factor cannot be overstated.
I also think there was something unsettling about Murphy running for a prosecutor’s job with endorsements from special interests and individual officeholders. The A.G. could end up investigating such individuals, groups or those with ties to them, creating an appearance of conflict of interest.
By contrast, it’s hard to see a circumstance in which Kane is potentially compromised by the endorsement of former President Bill Clinton.
But going forward is no cakewalk for Kane.
She faces Republican Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed in the fall, a respected and experienced prosecutor.
She might want to come up with another slogan.
Also, Republicans have never lost an A.G.’s race and are especially interested in keeping it that way since there’s a sitting Republican governor.
And, yes, because Freed is backed by Corbett, Democrat Kane can argue against letting a fox guard the henhouse, and she’ll make a case against pending ultrasound legislation also backed by Corbett.
Plus, Kane has a secret weapon. Her camp confirms that she has a twin sister, which (and I’m mostly joking here) comes in handy for staging multiple appearances at Memorial Day, July Fourth and Labor Day parades.
But Kane has a “3,000 problem.”
She got too cute pressing her experience by saying in ads and speeches that she “prosecuted” 3,000 cases. Under media questioning, she conceded most did not go to trial, that she probably has tried two dozen cases.
Since Murphy never tried a case in Pennsylvania (he was a military lawyer), she could have maintained an apparent advantage without specificity subject to scrutiny. She’ll need to clean that up for the fall.
Other factors were more important, and they put Murphy in the wrong race at the wrong time. n
For recent columns, go to philly.com/JohnBaer. Read his blog at philly.com/BaerGrowls.