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Politics & Government

Lone Republican 'Couldn't Resist' State AG Contest

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State Sen. John Rafferty is running for Pennyslvania Attorney General.

The field is crowded in the race for the Democratic nomination for Pennsylvania Attorney General with four declared candidates and at least one more expected to add his name, but on the Republican side, it has become a very lonely race. 

State Sen. John Rafferty is the lone candidate since state Rep. Todd Stephens dropped out earlier this month. Stephens said it was clear from early endorsements that Rafferty would take the primary in April.

Rafferty said he considered a run for the office four years ago but declined. This year he couldn't resist.

“After seeing the way this office has been handled and the turmoil occupying the office of the attorney general and the distraction it has become for the commonwealth, I decided it was time to step forward,” Rafferty said, referring to embattled current Attorney General Kathleen Kane.

It's not clear if the Democrat will run for re-election as she fights perjury charges, the suspension of her law license and the potential of being removed from office before the end of her term.

Rafferty worked in the AG’s office under Leroy Zimmerman and Ernie Preate. Zimmerman was the first elected Pennsylvania Attorney General and Preate followed; he left office amidst federal racketeering charges and alleged corruption in a mail fraud case.

Rafferty pointed to his time in the AG’s office, with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office and the time he served in the private sector, as strong building blocks for running the state's highest legal office without political bias.

“If the law is broken by fellow elected officials, regardless of the party affiliation, they’re breaking the law," he said. "You go after them and prosecute them under the law.”

Though Rafferty is part of the Republican establishment. He has won a seat on the state senate four times and served as both a township supervisor and a school board member. He is currently the vice chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee where he said he has built strong ties with the law enforcement and legal communities, which will help him to combat the state’s growing opioid abuse problem.

The attorney general's office is uniquely positioned to help in that multi-jurisdictional fight, he said. The AG’s office will have to work closely with law enforcement and district attorneys throughout the state to combat the heroin epidemic and “bring these people to justice,” Rafferty said.

Franklin and Marshall University Center for Politics and Public Affairs Director G. Terry Madonna said he thinks this will continue to be a high profile race, but the presidential race could impact the outcome of the general election for all of the statewide offices.

“We have seen a tremendous increase in straight party voting,” said Madonna. “The campaigns for the three row offices might not make that much of a difference if indeed there is a blow out at the top of the ticket.”

Madonna said he expects the Republicans to hammer at the fact that Kane was the first Democrat to be elected as Attorney General and the office is generally seen as being in shambles.

Candidates have until Feb. 16 to file petitions to be on the April ballot.