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Will Kane run for governor? Fundraiser renews speculation

| Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, 2:33 p.m.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane smiles during the singing of 'America, the Beautiful' after she took her oath of office at the state Capitol, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013, in Harrisburg, Pa.

HARRISBURG — An upcoming fundraiser for Attorney General Kathleen Kane renews speculation about whether she intends to seek the Democratic nomination for governor next year.

Tickets for the Nov. 18 event at Stocks on 2nd, a restaurant a short walk from the state Capitol, range from $500 for an individual to $10,000 for a fundraising chair.

Kane did not respond to requests for comment.

Since taking office in January, Kane has downplayed suggestions that she will enter a crowded field from which the May Democratic primary winner will emerge to take on Republican Gov. Tom Corbett next November.

Corbett, who announced his candidacy this week, is the presumptive GOP nominee.

“She has the profile where she could be a late entrant into the race and immediately become a top-tier candidate,” said Larry Ceisler, a Philadelphia public relations consultant. “I just think (Kane's advisers) want to be ready” if the political landscape shifts.

Kane pledged during last year's campaign to serve a four-year term as the state's top law enforcement official. Political strategists suggest Corbett's perceived vulnerability, based on public opinion polls, might prompt her to re-evaluate running for governor.

The Democratic primary has attracted eight potential candidates, including U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz and state Treasurer Rob McCord, both of Montgomery County, and former Revenue Secretary Tom Wolf of York County.

“Kane is the most popular Democrat in Pennsylvania, with the greatest name recognition. She would be foolish not to be testing the waters,” said Wesley McDonald, a political science professor at Elizabethtown College. “Unless she stumbles badly politically, I believe she is the presumptive front-runner if she decides to run, and probably the next governor.”

Kane was the top vote-getter in 2012, with more than 3.1 million — more votes than were cast for President Obama. She became the first woman and first Democrat to win as attorney general since the position became an elective office in 1980.

“I doubt she will run,” said Moe Coleman, director emeritus of the University of Pittsburgh's Institute of Politics. Overcoming her pledge not to run would be a significant hurdle, he said.

By raising campaign money, Kane potentially could hurt other Democrats' efforts to finance campaigns, Coleman said.

Jumping in with less than a year in office might be viewed as “opportunistic,” said Christopher Borick, a political science professor at Muhlenberg College. It would give opponents an issue to use against her, he said.

Steve Peterson, a political science professor at Penn State University's Harrisburg campus, said Kane may be bolstering her campaign account so she can donate to candidates and gain cache with the party. “I take her at her word,” he said.

Kane challenged Corbett even before taking office, vowing to independently investigate how Corbett, as attorney general, handled the prosecution of serial child molester Jerry Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant football coach. She pledged to determine why it took almost three years to arrest Sandusky, convicted last year of abusing 10 boys.

Critics contend that Corbett delayed Sandusky's arrest until 11 months after the governor's race was decided in November 2010. Corbett denied he told anyone to slow the probe for political reasons.

Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter.

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