HARRISBURG - Kathleen Kane was elected the first woman and first Democrat to be Pennsylvania attorney general Tuesday, defeating Republican David Freed and snapping a chain of GOP victories that had been unbroken since the post became an elective office in 1980.
The 46-year-old Kane spent more than 12 years as a Lackawanna County assistant district attorney and proved to be a scrappy campaigner in her first bid for elective office. The Scranton resident beat former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy in the Democratic primary in April.
The 42-year-old Freed stressed his 15 years of prosecutorial experience, including seven years in his present job. The Camp Hill resident was unopposed in the primary.
Kane stressed her legal background and cast herself as a political outsider - an image easier to sell in the primary campaign financed mostly by her husband than in the fall campaign in which she relied on organized labor, trial lawyers and other special interests.
Freed, 42, said his prosecutorial credentials were superior because his 15-year career includes seven years of management experience as Cumberland County's elected district attorney.
The Camp Hill resident was hand-picked as the GOP nominee by Gov. Tom Corbett and was unopposed in the primary.
Freed's father-in-law is LeRoy Zimmerman, who became Pennsylvania's first elected attorney general in 1980. Every attorney general elected since then has been male and Republican. Previous attorneys general were appointed by the governor.
In 2010, the attorney general's office launched an ongoing, non-criminal investigation of the multibillion-dollar Hershey Trust Co. during the period Zimmerman was the board chairman. The investigation came amid questions about the Hershey Trust's purchase of a financially troubled golf course. Freed has said he would turn over the probe to an independent special prosecutor if he's elected and it is still active.
Kane, who spent more than $2 million in the primary, reported post-primary contributions totaling nearly $3 million through Oct. 22, while Freed reported raising more than $2 million.
During the two weeks leading up to the election, each candidate reported additional contributions totaling in the six-digit range. Freed took in at least $452,000, including more than $150,000 from the state GOP, and Kane reported more than $208,000.
At times, Kane seemed to be running as much against Corbett as against her opponent.
She persistently criticized the pace of the child sexual abuse investigation that resulted in the conviction of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky for abusing 10 boys over 15 years. He was sentenced in October to at least 30 years in prison.
Corbett was attorney general when the investigation began and had been governor for nearly a year by the time Sandusky was charged - three years later - in December 2011. Kane has vowed, if elected, to investigate why Sandusky was not charged earlier.
Freed did not rule out a review of the case and said one would be conducted if he comes across evidence that requires it. He said Sandusky's conviction on 45 counts shows that the investigation was effective.
Third-party political committees sponsored dueling attack ads in the race.
Freed came under fire from Democrats for what they considered his weak response to complaints of inaccuracies in an anti-Kane TV ad sponsored the Republican State Leadership Committee in Washington.
It accused Kane of mishandling two rape cases as a prosecutor, but her former boss - Lackawanna County's Republican district attorney - said publicly that Kane had nothing to do with either case.
In the only televised debate of the campaign, Freed said he was disappointed by the ad but that he had no say over it.
Shortly afterward, a group financed by the Democratic Attorneys General Association put up an ad making similarly flimsy claims about Freed and continued to run it even though Kane publicly disavowed it.
Incumbent Attorney General Linda Kelly, whom Corbett appointed in 2011 to complete the unfinished portion of his term as attorney general, agreed in advance not to run for a full four-year term.