Jon Campisi Jan. 26, 2012, 12:25pm

Soon after Republican state Sen. John Rafferty announced he was exiting the race for state attorney general, a Democratic candidate followed suit with the same news.

Jenkintown, Pa. attorney Dan McCaffery issued a statement Wednesday announcing he was dropping out of the race for the commonwealth’s top law enforcement position.

“It is with a clear conscience and more than a twinge of regret that I announce today the end of my campaign for Attorney General of Pennsylvania,” McCaffery said in his statement.

“After much soul searching this past weekend and a series of honest conversations with my family and closest political advisors, I reached the inescapable conclusion that the current configuration of this race and the economic circumstances of the time make it extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, to continue to mount a viable campaign.”

McCaffery’s decision to end his campaign means two Democrats will remain in the race to be the state’s next attorney general, a position that has been held by members of the GOP since the job became an elected post following a voter-approved constitutional amendment in 1980.

McCaffery, a Philadelphia resident, previously served in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office as an assistant prosecutor; he ran for city district attorney in 2009 but lost his primary bid to now-District Attorney Seth Williams.

Those Democrats remaining in the primary race are Lackawanna County Assistant District Attorney Kathleen Kane and Patrick Murphy, the former congressman from Pennsylvania who helped lead the charge to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy of gays serving openly in the U.S. Military.

Rafferty, who ended his campaign for attorney general a couple weeks back, is a Republican state senator who represents a district that encompasses parts of Berks, Montgomery and Chester Counties in southeastern Pennsylvania.

Rafferty said he was ending his campaign in light of the fact that Gov. Tom Corbett, who was state attorney general before his election as the state’s top executive, was throwing his support behind David Freed, the Republican district attorney in Cumberland County.

As for McCaffery, he said in his statement that he is worried about the state’s Democratic Party and Pennsylvania’s labor community, and how their allegiances seem to be split.

“We need to be unified in order to be well-positioned to win the Attorney General seat in the November General Election,” McCaffery’s statement read. “I exit this campaign with my head held high and my heart full of gratitude for the many people who support and believe in me.

“I will continue to be a strong voice within the state Democratic Party and pledge to work tirelessly to make sure the Democratic nominee wins the election in November,” his statement continued. “The office is simply too important not to be our top priority. I wish Patrick Murphy and Kathleen Kane all the best as they continue their pursuit of the Democratic nomination for Attorney General.”

In his statement, McCaffery went on to talk about how America’s middle class, and Pennsylvania’s in particular, has been hurt by institutions like banks and insurance companies, and “so many other reckless business sectors run amok.”

He expressed optimism that a Democrat who wins the attorney general spot could work strongly to defend the commonwealth’s middle class.

“It’s time to give our state’s struggling middle class a break and the Attorney General can and should play a significant role in making it happen,” McCaffery said.

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