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Voters' feelings about Corbett could affect Pa. attorney general race

| Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Republican David Freed is a candidate for state attorney general.
Libertarian Marakay Rogers is a candidate for state attorney general.

HARRISBURG — David Freed hopes to become the fifth consecutive Republican attorney general since the post became an elected position three decades ago. Democrat Kathleen Kane wants to break that dominance.

Their powerful allies have weighed in on the race, in which the Jerry Sandusky child-sex scandal at Penn State University continues to serve as a debate theme. Political strategists say voters' feelings for Gov. Tom Corbett, who as attorney general started the Sandusky investigation, could play a role in the Nov. 6 election.

People disappointed with the Republican governor might “register their discontent and vote for Kane,” said Tom Baldino, a political science professor at Wilkes University. A Quinnipiac University poll this week showed voters disapprove of Corbett's job performance by a 42 percent to 38 percent margin.

Freed, 42, the Cumberland County district attorney, is vying to win the office held by his father-in-law, LeRoy Zimmerman, from 1981-89.

“It's the opportunity to help more people than I've been able to help as a district attorney,” Freed said. The office oversees not just criminal prosecutions, but also consumer protection and civil actions, he said.

Kane, a former assistant district attorney in Lackawanna County, would be the first woman to win election to the office. Corbett appointed Linda Kelly of Edgewood to finish his term when he became governor in January 2011, and Ann X. Alpern was an appointed attorney general from 1959 through part of 1961.

“As a prosecutor, I was able to make a difference. It helped bring justice to people,” said Kane, 46, of Clarks Summit. “It's a great responsibility, and I loved it.”

Both tout their records as prosecutors, but Freed said his experience is broader as an elected district attorney who directed investigations and made tough calls. Kane said voters “want a prosecutor, not a bureaucrat.”

Marakay Rogers, a York attorney, is the Libertarian candidate for attorney general. Rogers did not return the Tribune-Review's phone calls.

Former President Bill Clinton endorsed Kane in the Democratic primary and attended an Oct.1 fundraiser for her.

Corbett cleared the primary field for Freed and included him on the slate he wanted the GOP state committee to endorse. Freed ran opposed.

Corbett's critics question whether he devoted adequate resources to the Sandusky case and ask why it took three years to arrest Sandusky. A jury convicted the former defensive football coach of molesting 10 boys over 15 years and a judge this month sentenced Sandusky to 30 to 60 years in prison.

“I'm disturbed by the undercurrent,” Baldino said of the case's role in the race. “I'm not surprised by it. I'm disappointed. ... There's a lot of innuendo.”

Corbett has said he used a grand jury, which meets one week per month, to investigate so he could compel testimony of reluctant witnesses.

Kane, a former sex crimes prosecutor, said one confirmed report would have been enough to arrest Sandusky. Kane said she would investigate how the office handled the case.

Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley said Kane is arguing about the investigation solely for political purposes. Imagine the uproar had Corbett charged Sandusky with one count and lost the case, Harley said.

Freed praised the investigation but said he would review it. Kane claims Freed has been inconsistent with his responses on the matter.

“It was a strong conviction and sentence. I understand there are questions out there. I don't think a judgment can be made beforehand. I'd want to learn everything I could about it,” Freed said.

Freed said he would recuse himself from an investigation of the Hershey Trust, where his father-in-law, Zimmerman, was a key figure before resigning from the charity. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported an attorney general's investigation of questionable trust land deals. Zimmerman is not accused of wrongdoing.

Pennsylvania Cable Network will air an Oct. 22 debate between Freed and Kane at 7 and 10 p.m. and at 9 the following morning.

Brad Bumsted is state Capitol reporter for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 717-787-1405 or bbumsted@tribweb.com.

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