- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 26, 2016

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A state senator and county commissioner from the same suburban Philadelphia county will vie this fall for the seat being vacated by embattled Attorney General Kathleen Kane.

Sen. John Rafferty easily beat former prosecutor and police officer Joe Peters for the Republican nomination for attorney general, while Democrats chose Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro over sitting district attorneys in Pittsburgh and Easton.

Rafferty, now in his fourth term and Transportation Committee chairman, promised to restore credibility and public confidence in the 800-employee office. He emphasized a career that has included work as a prosecutor in the office, drawing a contrast with Shapiro.

“We can’t continue on in the same vein, we can’t continue on with someone with limited experience in the legal field,” he said.

With about 85 percent of precincts reporting, Shapiro held a 9-point lead over his closest challenger, District Attorney Stephen Zappala of Allegheny County.

“I think it’s critical that we restore integrity and fairness in our justice system and make sure that the system works for everyone, that we take on the status quo and we hold people accountable for undermining our communities,” Shapiro said.

Kane isn’t seeking a second term while she awaits trial on charges she unlawfully leaked grand jury information and then lied about it. She has been stripped of her law license.

Kane four years ago became the first woman and first Democrat to be voted into the job since it became an elected office more than three decades ago.

She was viewed as an up-and-comer in state politics early in her tenure, making a name for herself with several high-profile decisions. She declined to defend a state law prohibiting gay marriage and blocked a plan by then-Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, to hire an outside company to manage the state lottery.

Her campaign promise to investigate how state prosecutors handled the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal led to an investigation that found no signs that Corbett and others had made decisions for political reasons.

But it turned up evidence that state prosecutors, lawyers, judges and others had been trading emails with salacious content and messages that demeaned women, minorities, gays and others. Two state Supreme Court justices have retired over their participation in the scandal, dozens within Kane’s agency have been disciplined, and an outside review of the emails is underway.

Kane announced Feb. 16 she would not seek a second term while she prepares for her August trial on perjury and other charges.

The attorney general’s office prosecutes such major crimes as drug rings, organized crime, child predators and public corruption, and it works to protect consumers from fraud, represents state agencies in litigation and handles cases when local district attorneys have conflicts.

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