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Kane for governor?

| Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

HARRISBURG

It's asked a lot at the Capitol: Is Attorney General Kathleen Kane running for governor?

Officially, she's not a candidate. She was only sworn in as attorney general in January. There are at least six declared Democrat candidates for governor. Many are out working hard to sell their agendas and get pols and media types to notice. At times, however, Kane looks like a candidate. The talk is not coming from her.

Here's the scenario: What if, by January, there is no clear Democrat front-runner to take on Republican Gov. Tom Corbett? The Democrats realize they may have the best opportunity in modern history to knock out an incumbent governor. Since 1970, all governors elected to the office have been re-elected.

Corbett's poll numbers are so bad that Dems are licking their chops. Polls can swing dramatically when there are 15 months until the election and the incumbent may raise $30 million.

Kane was the top vote-getter statewide in 2012, outpolling even Barack Obama. Since taking office, she has blocked Corbett's plan to privatize the state lottery. Last month, she handed him the defense of Pennsylvania's law banning gay marriage.

Moe Coleman, director emeritus of the Institute of Politics at the University of Pittsburgh, said he can't recall an issue changing as radically as Pennsylvania voters' approval and acceptance of gay marriage. Kane said the 1996 state law defining marriage as between “one man and one woman” is unconstitutional. She “delegated” its defense to Corbett's lawyers.

Coming up: her report on whether Corbett, as attorney general, delayed the investigation of Jerry Sandusky to get past the November 2011 election. He says he told no one to slow it down. Sandusky, a former Penn State defensive football coach, was convicted of 45 counts of child sex abuse last year. The aftermath of his 2011 arrest was explosive because of the implications for other top PSU officials, including the late and revered coach, Joe Paterno.

Kane is arguably the most popular Democrat in Pennsylvania at the state level. Her credentials for attorney general amounted to working as an assistant district attorney in Lackawanna County. It is a light resume for governor. Then again, Corbett was largely a career prosecutor, though at much higher levels as a U.S. attorney and state attorney general.

During her attorney-general race against Republican David Freed, Kane made a commitment to serve her full four-year term as the state's chief law enforcement officer. But she would not be the first pol to break such a pledge, saying, “My party needs me, my state needs me.”

Here's the downside: While Kane is better known than any of the Democrat candidates, Corbett could rebound. Her entry into the race would be viewed by some as blind ambition. If she would lose, her career would be significantly damaged.

Kane would be better off playing the role of stalking horse for fellow Democrats, building a real record as attorney general and running for governor down the road.

Brad Bumsted is the state Capitol reporter for Trib Total Media (717-787-1405 or bbumsted@tribweb.com).

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