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February 16, 2016

Kathleen Kane made the right choice to blow off re-election efforts

Pa.'s attorney general can focus on her job, looming trial after deciding not to pursue second term

In case you missed it earlier this afternoon, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced Tuesday that she won’t seek re-election.

The first-term attorney general announced her decision at a 1:30 p.m. press conference in Scranton billed only as an event at which she’d discuss the "future of [her] office."

"I love being the Attorney General. I love serving the people of Pennsylvania," she said before declining to field questions from the press.

That was probably just as well – from her perspective – considering the questions would have likely revolved around the ongoing criminal case hovering over her to the point of being an untenable distraction. You know, all that stuff which contributed to her law license getting suspended and the state Senate to call a (failed) vote to oust her?

While it was a tough decision for Kane, make no mistake about the fact that it was the right decision for Kane.

One week ago, I wrote a column headlined “It’s long past time for Kathleen Kane to step aside.” Here’s an excerpt:

With each passing day of stubbornness, Kane proves that she values self-preservation over the greater good. Sure, it must be painful to see your promising political career in tatters, but fighting the good fight has never been a phrase applied to sloppy messes that get sloppier by the minute.

A refusal to see that is neither something we should accept of the lead law enforcement officer in our state nor Kathleen Kane should accept of herself.

The onus is on Kane herself to see that, and to do the right thing, career consequences be damned.

Obviously, my words didn’t impact her decision, but they explain why I feel as if Kane is to be commended today.

Since she said she truly loves her job, the chaos swirling around her would do nothing but hinder her ability to do it well.

Without having the additional concerns related to a re-election campaign, she has the chance to actually live up to her promise to “fight corruption, regardless of the cost to me.” 

Much of the blowback elicited by my column was focused on the fact that Kane is viewed as a figure who shook up the Harrisburg power structure and its inherent "good old boys network." Well guess what: Now she can double down on her efforts without worrying about the political cost of doing so.

Instead of fretting about a trio of aspiring replacements – Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro, Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli and Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr. are in the Democratic-primary mix – Pennsylvania's “full-time attorney general” now just needs to worry about fighting perjury, obstruction of justice and other charges when her August trial arrives.

It's best for everybody involved. Well, except for the people she targets for attention. Life might've gotten a bit worse for them today.