ABOVE PHOTO: Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane pauses for a moment before a news conference at which Kane announced she will not run for re-election this year, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016, in Scranton, Pa. (Michael Bryant/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)
By Michael Rubinkam
SCRANTON–Pennsylvania’s embattled attorney general said Tuesday she will not seek a second term, facing pressure from within her own party after being hobbled for months by criminal perjury charges and the suspension of her law license.
Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced the decision in her hometown of Scranton just hours before a deadline to submit signatures to make the primary ballot.
Kane, who narrowly survived a Senate vote last week to remove her from the office she has held since 2013, did not mention the charges. Rather, she said she must be a “mother first” to her two teenage sons.
“While this was not an easy decision for me, while I love Pennsylvania, I love my sons first,” Kane, the first woman and first Democrat elected to the office, told reporters. “I am a mother first and foremost. Because at the end of my life, I hope that history judges me well, but that’s for time to tell. I hope more that God and my sons judge me well.”
Kane did not take questions from reporters.
She touted her office’s record of fighting corruption and drug crime, arresting child predators and protecting landowners in their dealings with natural gas companies. She also asserted she had a big lead in polls over her would-be rivals for the Democratic nomination.
Kane, a little-known former county prosecutor who won the office in 2012 in a landslide, was initially cheered by Democrats as a rising star.
However, Kane has seen a tumultuous two years that seriously damaged her prospects for re-election.
She was charged by prosecutors in suburban Philadelphia in August with perjury and other offenses for allegedly leaking secret grand jury material to a reporter to smear a rival and lying about it under oath. Her trial is scheduled for this summer.
She has denied the allegations, saying she has been targeted by an old boys club that was threatened by her work to expose the exchange of obscene and objectionable emails by employees of her agency, judges and others.
The state Supreme Court suspended her law license as of October and recently rejected her request to reinstate it.
Her office also fumbled public corruption cases and her critics say she used the government email scandal as a weapon against her perceived enemies. Meanwhile, her tenure was marked by an exodus of top aides, public feuds and eyebrow-raising misstatements.
Gov. Tom Wolf called for her to resign six months ago, and at least two other Democrats filed paperwork to seek her office. She had assembled no identifiable campaign organization, and she reported raising no campaign contributions in 2015.
Her spokesman, Chuck Ardo, said Kane considered the toll a campaign would have taken on her family.
“All politics are a bloodsport to begin with, and this particular campaign had the potential to be really personally damaging,” he said.
The state House of Representatives voted last week to empower a committee to look into her impeachment, a process expected to play out in the coming months. A spokesman for House Republican majority leaders said he believed the impeachment process would go on.
“This is about whether she engaged in misbehavior in office, not whether she should run again,” spokesman Stephen Miskin said.
Kane vowed in her final 11 months in office to keep fighting what she called a culture of corruption in Pennsylvania politics.
“I told you I would fight corruption and I’m fighting corruption, regardless of the personal cost to me,” she said.
She called on other elected officials Tuesday to “stand with me to fight these battles in tearing down this old boy network.” When residents get the “system of justice that they deserve and not the one that that they have,” she said, “I will rest peacefully and easily knowing that we marched into hell for an unheavenly foe and we won.”
The email scandal has resulted in dozens of people in government being disciplined or fired, the abrupt retirement in 2014 of one Supreme Court justice, Seamus McCaffery, and pending ethics charges against another, Michael Eakin. The emails disclosed so far include nudity, sex acts and content that is derogatory toward women, gays and ethnic and religious groups.
Kane is paying a team led by Doug Gansler, a former Maryland state attorney general, to review millions of messages and make a public report about what they contain.
Gansler said Tuesday that Kane’s announcement would not change the investigation “one iota” and that he expected to conclude the investigation and issue a report by the time Kane leaves office next January.