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Pa. Attorney General Kane says she won’t seek re-election

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Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane speaks during a news conference in Scranton, Pa., Tuesday Feb. 16, 2016. Kane said she will not seek a second term, facing pressure from within her own party after being hobbled for months by criminal perjury charges and the suspension of her law license.
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Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane pauses during a news conference in Scranton, Pa., Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016. Kane said she will not seek a second term, facing pressure from within her own party after being hobbled for months by criminal perjury charges and the suspension of her law license.
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Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane arrives for a news conference in Scranton, Pa., Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016. Kane said she will not seek a second term, facing pressure from within her own party after being hobbled for months by criminal perjury charges and the suspension of her law license.
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Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane announces that she will not seek re-election during a news conference in Scranton on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016.
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Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane speaks during a news conference at her regional office in Scranton on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016. Kane said she will not seek a second term, facing pressure from within her own party after being hobbled for months by criminal perjury charges and the suspension of her law license.

SCRANTON — Attorney General Kathleen Kane, clinging to office without a valid law license, a criminal trial pending, and an impeachment investigation under way, said Tuesday she won’t run for re-election.

“I am announcing that I am not seeking the Democratic nomination for attorney general,” Kane told a room full of reporters in her hometown.

Kane, 49, was elected the state’s chief law enforcement officer in 2012. She is the first woman and first Democrat to hold the elected office of attorney general.

Her decision likely won’t have a huge impact on the Democratic primary in April, but it helps “clarify the race,” said G. Terry Madonna, a political science professor at Franklin & Marshall College.

Kane said her family was a factor in her decision.

“I will tell you that I love being the attorney general. I love serving the people of Pennsylvania. I hope that they know that, and I hope that they feel that,” Kane said. “This was not an easy decision. While I love Pennsylvania, I love my sons first. I’m a mother first and foremost,” she said. Her sons are 14 and 15.

Kane spoke for about 9 12 minutes but took no questions. She made the announcement hours before the deadline for candidates to file nominating petitions.

Three Democrats filed petitions: Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.; Montgomery County Commissioner Chair Josh Shapiro; and Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli. Two Republicans filed, Sen. John Rafferty, R-Montgomery County, the party’s endorsed candidate; and Joe Peters, a former state and federal prosecutor who briefly served as Kane’s spokesman.

“The consensus among political types is it looks like an East-West race among Zappala and Shapiro,” Madonna said. “It reshapes the race in the sense that you don’t have the incumbent.”

“It’s hard to imagine she would have had a significant share of the Democratic electorate,” said Christopher Borick, a political science professor at Muhlenberg College in Allentown. It’s hard to identify who would have been a Kane voter, and it’s not easy to discern which candidate would benefit from her withdrawal, Borick said.

“I don’t think it has much impact” other than perhaps accentuating regional differences between the candidates, said Wes Leckrone, a political science professor at Widener University.

Kane’s law license is suspended indefinitely. She faces 12 criminal charges, including two felony perjury counts, based on an investigation by the Montgomery County District Attorney’s office. Her trial is set for August.

Kane maintains her innocence.

The House is investigating whether to impeach Kane. The Senate would need to approve any articles of impeachment. Stephen Miskin, a House GOP spokesman, said the impeachment investigation would not be affected. It focuses on potential improprieties while in office, not whether she stands for election, Miskin said.

The Senate last week failed to approve a resolution to remove Kane from office. A majority of senators found “reasonable cause” that she cannot perform her duties as attorney general with a suspended license. All but one Democrat opposed removal, and it failed to receive the required two-thirds vote.

Prosecutors say Kane leaked grand jury information to the Philadelphia Daily News to embarrass former state prosecutor Frank Fina, with whom she had feuded.

“We had great successes,” Kane said, citing the mobile street crime unit, Internet predator unit and a gun violence task force.

“I fought corruption regardless of the personal cost,” she said.

Without citing the state Supreme Court justices by name, Kane referred to pornographic and offensive emails she released from the personal emails of Justice Michael Eakin, who is suspended pending a trial before the Court of Judicial Discipline. Former Justice Seamus McCaffery also was caught up in the scandal. He was suspended in 2014 then retired.

“When it goes to the highest court in the land, it is even more offensive,” Kane said.

Kane said she will continue to fight injustice and carry on her effort to “tear down the old boys’ network.”

“When we accomplish all of that, I will rest peaceably and easily knowing we marched into hell (against) an unheavenly foe,” Kane said.

Brad Bumsted is the Tribune-Review’s state Capitol reporter. Reach him at 717-787-1405 and [email protected].

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