'The Kane Train': A high-speed political run

ASSOCIATED PRESS Kathleen Kane 's campaign slogan was "I'm a prosecutor, not a politician." Does that still stand?
ASSOCIATED PRESS Kathleen Kane 's campaign slogan was "I'm a prosecutor, not a politician." Does that still stand?
Posted: July 23, 2013

LET'S AGREE on one thing: Pennsylvania's new attorney general knows how to get attention.

She did it most recently (and controversially) in the national debate over gay marriage.

Says it's legal, won't hear otherwise, won't defend a state ban against it.

This is part of a pattern. Flag down a hot topic. Hop on board.

She did it last year as a candidate promising to investigate the handling of the Penn State/Jerry Sandusky scandal; an investigation she says is active.

She did it within weeks of taking office, closing a gun-law loophole that let Pennsylvanians denied concealed-carry permits here to get them from Florida.

She did it when she threw Gov. Corbett's plan to privatize part of the lottery back in his face.

She's active and visible on divisive issues, aggressively gaining political points from those who agree with her regarding (for example) gays, guns and Corbett.

So much for her campaign slogan "I'm a prosecutor, not a politician."

(Oh, yeah, she also muscled out a grand-jury judge who reportedly expressed the opinion that she's too political.)

Now, let's agree on two more things: Corbett is vulnerable in 2014, and Democrats have no statewide star in the race.

See where this is headed?

The Democratic scrum features a Philly congresswoman, three former Ed Rendell Cabinet members and the state treasurer: Schwartz, Hanger, Wolf, McGinty & McCord. Sounds like a nice-sized law firm.

This is not to say Allyson Schwartz, John Hanger, Tom Wolf, Katie McGinty or Rob McCord cannot blossom.

It's to say right now there's little growth. And the group and its weeding out are about the only re-election asset Corbett currently holds.

What if we get to January or February with all these names and no clear favorite? Could there be a draft?

Kathleen Kane is in office just six months. Last year, she outpolled everyone on Pennsylvania's ballot, including Sen. Casey and President Obama.

She's made national news, statewide news and political news at a rate far outpacing fellow Democrats.

In short (and in short order), she's a political star.

Great for her and her party; just a tad ironic.

As a "not a politician" candidate, Kane said the A.G. can't "pick and choose" what laws to enforce.

Now she says she can.

Was she wrong then or is she wrong now?

Her decision not to defend state law banning same-sex marriage led to parsing sections of the Commonwealth Attorneys Act.

One section says the A.G. "shall defend the constitutionality of all statutes." Another section says the A.G. can defer "any particular litigation" to the governor's general counsel.

But if the legal issues are fuzzy, the politics are crystal clear.

Kane made her no-defense announcement at a gay-rights rally passing as a news conference at the Constitution Center.

If she governed as she campaigned - namely there's no place for politics in the attorney general's office - her announcement would have been a statement or a simple news conference with a letter of transfer to the general counsel.

But she made a choice.

Now she faces possible legal challenges from (a) the Legislature, (b) religious or conservative pro-family groups, (c) some combo of both or (d) the state's first responder to all liberal issues, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler County.

Metcalfe say he's researching ways to force Kane to defend the law or face articles of impeachment: "If an elected official violates the law, that's an issue that ought to be raised."

Kane, even if she draws litigation, probably prevails.

But in the larger picture, she's created a conflict.

Her rapid rise (and national exposure) is the result of well-played politics by a newcomer to elective office - an office she won on the promise of not being political.

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