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Politics & Government

For Morganelli, AG's Office Will Not Be A Stepping Stone

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Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli is running for PA Attorney General

With a crowded field of candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for Pennsylvania Attorney General, John Morganelli is hoping his experience as a Northampton County District Attorney will set him apart from the others.

“The office is in crisis,” Morganelli said. “I believe strongly that whoever the next attorney general is, that that person necessarily must be an experienced prosecutor.”

With 24 years in office, Morganelli is the longest serving DA in the state. He has also served on several statewide committees including the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

The primary race is getting into full swing as current Attorney General Kathleen Kane fights perjury charges, the suspension of her law license and the potential of being removed from office before the end of her term. It is unclear if she will or can run for a second term.

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

Morganelli said the winner of the primary will have to run against “the ghost of Kathleen Kane.”

Franklin and Marshall University Center for Politics and Public Affairs Director G. Terry Madonna said Morganelli could have a point.

“The Republicans are obviously going to make an argument that the Democrats can’t be trusted with the attorney general’s office,” Madonna said. 

Kane was the first Democrat to hold the office since it became an elected position in 1981.

While serving as district attorney, Morganelli has worked to increase the use of specialty courts such as veterans and mental health courts, but he warns they could become over used. He said using special post-incarceration programs from drug offenders might be helpful. 

Morganelli said to beat the growing heroin epidemic, the AG’s office must use its power to monitor doctors to prevent them from writing too many pain killer prescriptions. Officials must work with police to crack down on the drug trade with the support of the public, he said.

“We need to go out into the community as the DA’s do,” Morganelli said. “The attorney general has a larger bully pulpit to go out and inform the folks out there about the dangers of this addiction to start with, because this is a supply and demand problem that we have with any drugs.”

In Pennsylvania and in many other states, the attorney general’s office is often seen as a launching pad to higher office. Three of the state’s six elected AG’s have run for governor, and it was once believed that Kathleen Kane was destined for the same fate. 

Morganelli said that has the potential of introducing troublesome politics into the office. At age 60, he said if he is elected, he has no intention of running for anything else.