- Associated Press - Monday, October 24, 2016

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - The two men seeking to become Pennsylvania’s next attorney general linked each other Monday to unpopular politicians as they debated with two weeks left in the campaign.

Republican state Sen. John Rafferty noted Democratic Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro donated to former Attorney General Kathleen Kane, while Shapiro linked Rafferty to presidential candidate Donald Trump.

“I am running against Kathleen Kane in a suit,” Rafferty said, arguing Shapiro has “even less experience” than Kane, who resigned in August after being convicted of leaking grand jury material and lying about it under oath.

Shapiro said Rafferty has “gotten himself so twisted up” regarding Trump, claiming Rafferty has not sufficiently distanced himself from what Shapiro called Trump’s racist, homophobic and xenophobic comments.

“He’s never demonstrated that type of political courage in his life and I don’t expect him to begin to do that now,” Shapiro said.

Rafferty said he supports Trump as the person at the top of the Republican ticket but has not decided whether he plans to vote for him.

Rafferty noted Kane got support during her successful 2012 campaign from Bill and Hillary Clinton.

“The last time the Clintons campaigned for anybody for attorney general, like my opponent, is Kathleen Kane,” Rafferty said during the hour-long forum at Widener University Commonwealth Law School in Harrisburg. “So let’s remember that.”

Rafferty vowed to serve all four years of his term, and four more years if re-elected. Shapiro said he would “serve out a full term” but declined to, as he put it, “sign silly political pledges.”

Rafferty has argued Shapiro has shown ambitions that suggest his focus is on his next step in politics.

“The office of attorney general should not be a rental space, should not be a stepping stone,” Rafferty said.

Both men said they believe it is constitutionally permissible for the state to change the statute of limitations retroactively, to give victims of abuse the ability to sue. Lawmakers are currently considered bills that would alter the rules for when a victim can bring a claim of past abuse.

The two men were asked if they would release a law firm’s report, commissioned by Kane, into the exchange of lurid and objectionable emails with the attorney general’s office.

The current attorney general, Bruce Beemer, is reviewing the report and hopes to release it before the new agency head takes the oath of office in January.

Rafferty said if it’s up to him, he plans to release “the information,” but would first examine it to make sure it will not unfairly tarnish anyone. Shapiro said he would release “those emails.”

Both men agreed it was a mistake to hire an out-of-state law firm to examine the emails.

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