The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

State News

December 29, 2012

Kane win, Specter death marked Pa. politics in ‘12

HARRISBURG — Some things that stirred much political discussion in Pennsylvania in 2012 did not materialize – a photo ID requirement for voters, legislative redistricting, a high-profile role for the state in the presidential race.

But there was hardly a drought of statewide political news.

Democratic newcomer Kathleen Kane was elected attorney general, ending voters’ 32-year-old habit of exclusively choosing Republican men as Pennsylvania’s chief legal officer. She is the first woman elected to the post since it became an elective office in 1980.

The former Lackawanna County prosecutor was the top vote-getter in the general election. She received more votes than President Barack Obama or Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, who defeated Republican millionaire Tom Smith to win a second term.

Kane beat GOP nominee David Freed, the Cumberland County district attorney, by 14.5 percentage points.

Kane, of Scranton, and Auditor General-elect Eugene DePasquale, a Democratic former state representative from York, won two of the open statewide row offices.

Democratic state Treasurer Rob McCord was re-elected to the third.

Only the attorney general’s office changed parties.

The elections also brought good news for legislative Democrats, who picked up three Senate seats after losing the governorship and what was left of their legislative clout two years ago, but Republicans retained control of both houses.

“For the millions of dollars spent on campaigns, this was a status quo election,” said Terry Madonna, a pollster and political scientist at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster.

In October, former U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, whose 30 years in office made him Pennsylvania’s longest-serving senator, died at 82 after his third bout with cancer. Vice President Joe Biden was among the hundreds of mourners who attended his funeral.

Scandals abound

Pennsylvania’s government and politics bore the stain of scandal for a third straight year as state and federal judges sentenced more than a dozen former legislators and aides convicted of public corruption.

Former House speakers

John Perzel of Philadelphia, a Republican, and Bill DeWeese, a Greene County Democrat, were among several legislative leaders who were sent to prison.

As the year is ending, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin remains suspended without pay as she awaits trial on charges of illegally using her publicly paid staff to work on political campaigns.

Her sister, former state Sen. Jane Orie, R-Allegheny, is serving a prison sentence for her conviction on similar charges earlier this year.

Corruption “has become part of our political landscape,” said political scientist and pollster Christopher Borick at Muhlenberg College in Allentown.

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