Murphy vs. Kane

Game on in the race for the Democratic nomination for Pennsylvania Attorney General, and, even though Tom Corbett is not on the ballot, it’s clear both candidates consider him a target in this election.

Patrick Murphy and Kathleen Kane debated Friday night at the Arch Street United Methodist Church in Center City, Philadelphia. It was the kick-off event of the weekend long Pennsylvania Progressives Summit.  Murphy, the former Congressman from Bucks County, said Pennsylvanians “need someone (in an Attorney General) to be the counterbalance (to Corbett) and the right wing agenda.” Murphy went after Kane for her 2008 $500 contribution to Republican Corbett’s run for Attorney General and her past support for some Republican judges. Murphy added, “At the end of the day someone’s record needs to be very clear”about what side they are on. Kane countered that Murphy voted for George Bush for President.

The Jerry Sandusky case will be an issue in the general election. Murphy said, “It was an outrage” that it took so long to arrest Sandusky and promised a “top to bottom” review of why the case was not “more aggressively pursued.” Kane said, “I was stunned” at hearing Tom Corbett’s explanation about why the investigation took as long as it did.  She pointed to her own record in prosecuting child sex abuse cases in Pennsylvania.    

It’s on the issue of what she has done as a prosecutor that Kane hopes to edge Murphy.  Kane commented, “We’re both good Democrats,” but, the veteran assistant district attorney in Lackawanna County, said she is the only one who “has prosecuted thousands and thousands of cases” in Pennsylvania.  On more than one occasion she said of someone wanting to be Attorney General, “You need to know the laws of Pennsylvania.” It was a slap at Murphy, who although he has worked in two law firms in the state, tried cases in court as a prosecutor only while serving in the U.S. Army. Said Kane, “My record is the only record that can stand up to the Republican nominee in the fall.” Murphy defended his military prosecutorial record, his advocacy for gun laws to protect police officers, and spoke of his Congressional record. He said of being Attorney General that it is also about “fighting for the values that are under attack right now.”  Murphy says he’s the candidate who can “fight the big fights.”

Both Kane and Murphy appear friendly to each other and they agree on much.  But they are well-funded and need to define why one is better than the other. Expect a spirited battle for the nomination in March and April.

While Kane and Murphy have participated in a handful of debates or forums before Friday night, this latest debate was billed by the coalition of Pennsylvania Progressives as the first real public debate of the 2012 race. The sponsors say they invited the likely Republican nominee, Cumberland County District Attorney Dave Freed, but that he declined to attend.  No Democrat ever has won the AG’s seat since it became an elected position in Pennsylvania.

Note later update on straw poll.

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