Former Pa. auditor general enters race for state attorney general

Jon Campisi Mar. 1, 2012, 10:31am

Just when it appeared as though a former area congressman and a former Northeastern Pennsylvania prosecutor would be the only two Democrats running in the upcoming primary for state attorney general, a third contender has thrown his hat into the mix.

Don Bailey, a former Pennsylvania auditor general who also served for a time in the U.S. House of Representatives, has announced that he will be on the April election ballot seeking the Democratic nomination for the commonwealth’s top law enforcement position.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Feb. 29 that Bailey, a 66-year-old civil rights attorney from the Harrisburg area, will be challenging former Bucks County congressman Patrick Murphy and Lackawanna County’s Kathleen Kane in the nominating contest.

Bailey had filed to join the race earlier this month, but his candidacy was rejected by the Secretary of State for problems relating to the signatures on his petition, according to the Inquirer article.

But just when it appeared he was out, Bailey was allowed to reenter the race following a Commonwealth Court decision last week.

Some organizations have already thrown their support behind Bailey, such as the Pennsylvania Civil Rights Law Network, which officially endorsed Bailey on Feb. 24.

“Our endorsement of Don comes from the fact that he alone appears to have the courage, and the institutional understanding, to attack the problems in Pennsylvania politically at their real source …,” the PCRLN said in a statement.

“The real problem is the courts and their utilization as instruments of political control and favoritism to establish and maintain their cultural and political climates that lay beneath the general feeling of unfairness that more and more Pennsylvanians are coming to experience in the courts, and the insidious effects these things are having on our society, vis. the Penn State scandal, etc.”

(The Penn State scandal refers to the ongoing case against accused child molester Jerry Sandusky, the university’s former assistant football coach).

One other Democrat had been in the race for attorney general, but he dropped out last month. That candidate was former Philadelphia prosecutor Dan McCaffery, who once ran for Philadelphia district attorney.

Meanwhile, Kane, the former Lackawanna County prosecutor who remains in the Democratic race, has been heard accusing Murphy, the former congressman who helped lead the repeal of the recently overturned “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy of gays serving openly in the military, of attempting to take over an office with which he has no experience.

“Regardless of how many congressmen seek this office, we believe that Pennsylvania Democrats want to nominate a career prosecutor, not a career politician,” Josh Morrow, a spokesman for Kane, told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Bailey, who was Pennsylvania’s auditor general from 1985 to 1989, represented Westmoreland County in Congress for two terms during the late 1970s and early 1980s, according to the Inquirer.

He lost the seat to the late John Murtha in 1982.

Bailey has since focused on his civil rights law practice, mainly representing whistleblowers.

In an interview with the Inquirer, Bailey, the attorney, described himself as an “equal-opportunity suer.”

Bailey told the paper he entered the attorney general race to try and make a difference.

“It’s politics as usual in Pennsylvania,” he was quoted as saying. “I’m not going to accept the same old thing.”

The Pennsylvania Civil Rights Law Network, in its statement endorsing Bailey, said the other two Democratic candidates appear to have what it takes to run the state’s top law enforcement office as well, but Bailey seems to have some qualities that would really aid his potential career as attorney general.

“Each appears to be a fine candidate,” the statement says, “however, it does not appear that either of the other candidates have the unique insights, vision, and independence that Don does, and we believe that Don is by far the best suited to be Pennsylvania’s next attorney general.”

David Freed, the Republican district attorney from Cumberland County, is currently the sole GOP candidate running for state attorney general.

Freed has secured the endorsement of Gov. Tom Corbett, who was Pennsylvania Attorney General before he was elected governor.

No Democrat has been elected state attorney general since the office became an elective post in 1980.

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