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Politics & Government

Attorney General's Office Seen As Next Step For Stollsteimer

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Jack Stollsteimer is happy to tell you about his middle class roots.

Born the son of an immigrant mother who spent time in a Nazi labor camp and a father who served in the military and eventually drove a bus, Stollsteimer worked his way through college and law school. Now, he's casting his eyes on the state’s top law enforcement job.

“I’m a formal federal and state prosecutor, and running for attorney general is, to me, the culmination of the experiences I’ve had in law enforcement," Stollsteimer said. “We really need — and I think this need has been shown dramatically to the people of Pennsylvania — an experienced, capable person in that position to run that office with integrity.” 

Stollsteimer worked as an assistant district attorney and an assistant U.S. attorney. He said he thinks there is a lack of trust in the AG’s office right now that is “due in large part to the misdeeds of Attorney General Kathleen Kane.”

Kane, a first-term Democrat, is battling criminal charges on allegations that she leaked secret grand jury material to a newspaper and lied about it. Her law license has been suspended, and the state Senate has begun proceedings that could result in her removal from office.

Stollsteimer said he sees two major functions in the AG’s office. The first, criminal prosecutions. The second, consumer protection. Where those two align is where Stollsteimer said he wants to fight the state’s growing heroin and prescription drug epidemic.

“We have to increase the amount of treatment available to low-level drug offenders. In Pennsylvania right now, only 31 of 67 counties have drug treatment courts,” Stollsteimer said. “This is the most effective way to break people’s drug habits. We need to fully fund those programs. We need to have a war on addiction.”

To that end, Stollsteimer said he supports the use of specialty courts such as veterans courts and drug courts. He said he thinks that could help to drop recidivism rates in the state, which he calls the biggest issue faced by law enforcement today. 

“We’ve got a small number of people who commit an ongoing series of crimes and we have got to do something about those people," he said. 

Three other Democrats have officially announced their candidacy, including attorney Dave Fawcett, Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli and Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala. Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro is expected to launch a campaign in the coming weeks. 

“I don’t think there is any doubt that we are going to see a very spirited contest,” said Franklin and Marshall University Center for Politics and Public Affairs Director G. Terry Madonna. “There could be a bruising Democratic primary in the offing.”

The lone Republican running is state Sen. John Rafferty, which could put him in a strong position to take the general election. Madonna said no matter who the Democratic candidate is, the Republicans will question the ability of anyone in the Democratic Party to run the office. Kane was the first Democrat to be elected Pennsylvania Attorney General.

The post of attorney general was an appointed position from the time it was created until 1980, when the law was changed and the choice was given to the voters. The move was made in part to get corruption out of the office, the effectiveness of that has been questioned by some with one former AG being found guilty of mail fraud and the current AG facing criminal charges. 

Stollsteimer said he would work to shield his employees from the political pressures that flow from the voters and other elected officials.

The AG exists "to be the forward-facing individual, both to the public and the political community, and allow the career prosecutors and the career investigators and agents to do their job," he said. 

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