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3 Democratic statewide office holders might make life uncomfortable for Corbett

Eugene DePasquale and his wife Tracey kiss before he takes the oath of office for state Auditor General in a ceremony at the Pennsylvania State Museum, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013, in Harrisburg, Pa. DePasquale stepped down from his longtime seat in the state House of Representatives. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

HARRISBURG — Three Democratic watchdogs who took their oaths of office Tuesday might make life uncomfortable for Gov. Tom Corbett over the next two years, political analysts said.

“I think there are some real battles ahead,” said Gabriel Pellathy, a political science professor at St. Vincent College near Latrobe.

Attorney General Kathleen Kane's promised investigation of how Corbett handled the Jerry Sandusky child-sex case might put the Republican governor on the “defensive,” Pellathy said. Treasurer Rob McCord, the only incumbent re-elected in November, has questioned Corbett's authority to privatize the state lottery. Auditor General Eugene DePasquale of York will audit executive agencies, starting with the Department of Environmental Protection.

Corbett, who won office in 2010, is the first governor in at least 30 years to be surrounded by row officers of the opposite party. He has strongly hinted he's running for re-election next year.

McCord is exploring a bid for governor in 2014. Kane and DePasquale have said they will serve their full four-year terms.

“I think Corbett is in for some uncomfortable times,” said Barbara Hafer, a former auditor general, and state treasurer, who switched from Republican to Democrat in 2002 to support then-Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell.

Corbett did not stop to answer reporters' questions after Kane's ceremony, which drew nearly 800 people to the Capitol Rotunda. His spokesman declined comment.

Corbett, as attorney general, started the investigation of Sandusky, a once-revered defensive football coach at Penn State. Kane, a former Lackawanna County deputy district attorney, maintains it never should have taken 33 months to arrest Sandusky for child sexual abuse. She said she will begin an investigation of the Sandusky case headed by a deputy attorney general who will report only to her.

“Make no mistake, there's a new sheriff in town,” said Daniel McCaffery, brother of state Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery, referring to Kane. Daniel McCaffery was briefly a candidate for attorney general in the Democratic primary and he served as master of ceremonies at her swearing-in.

Corbett says his investigation needed to be thorough. A jury convicted Sandusky in June on 45 of 48 counts. A Centre County judge sentenced him to 30 to 60 years in prison.

The scenes at separate swearing-in ceremonies on Tuesday belied the notion of any tension with Corbett.

The governor and other dignitaries attended Kane's ceremony. She shook hands with Corbett on her way to the podium. Corbett gave Kane a handkerchief when her son Zack, 10, fainted during the ceremony. He later whispered to her, according to Kane, to tell Zack that he had fainted on the altar at his sister's wedding.

Kane said it is on to business at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Kane can “make life miserable for Corbett,” Hafer said. “She has a lot of information and a lot of power.”

Corbett has repeatedly stated that he did not delay the Sandusky investigation so that it would be resolved after the 2010 gubernatorial election. Sandusky's arrest and the firing of legendary football Coach Joe Paterno caused an uproar on campus and backlash from some Penn State boosters.

Even though the prosecution Corbett started was successful, “There's a perception he was part of the problem in getting to the truth,” said Jack Treadway, retired chairman of the political science department at Kutztown University.

“The Sandusky case was a big part of (Kane's) victory,” Treadway added. With 3.1 million votes statewide, Kane out-polled President Obama in the November election.

Kane will decide whether Corbett may privatize management of the lottery to increase revenue for senior programs. The state last week awarded a contract to British-based firm Camelot Global Services. After Corbett signs it, Kane has 30 days to decide whether to approve it.

“We will be getting the lottery contract,” Kane said. “We'll be doing our job (reviewing it) — on form and legality.”

McCord said he might decide not to pay Camelot if he determines that expanding the lottery to terminal-based games such as keno requires legislative approval.

DePasquale's first audit will look at the DEP, an agency under Corbett, to determine if state regulation of Marcellus shale drilling has adequately protected water supplies.

Brad Bumsted is the state Capitol writer for Trib Total Media.

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