Just when you thought it was a two-way Democratic primary race, another candidate made the ballot for Attorney General. Don Bailey, a former Pa. Auditor General and former Congressman originally from Westmoreland County, is officially in the race to be Pennsylvania’s top law enforcement official.
A problem with paperwork was cleared up last week, and the Pa. Department of State now lists him on the ballot.
He told PoliticsPA that he is running to be an advocate for the people.
“I have a very aggressive view of the role of the office,” Bailey said. “I think the Attorney General has the duty to represent the interests of citizens, not the interest government which is it doing now.”
Bailey, 66, has had a long career in Pennsylvania politics. A decorated Vietnam combat veteran, he was elected to Congress in 1978. He served two terms before losing a redistricting-forced primary to Rep. John Murtha in 1982. He was elected Pa. Auditor General in 1984, and lost the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in 1986. He lost his re-election bid for Auditor to Barbara Hafer in 1988, lost the Democratic primary for Auditor in 1992, and lost the Democratic gubernatorial primary to Ivan Itkin in 1998.
“I represented tons of public employees, mostly the whistleblower type, and there’s a great deal of public corruption that I think needs to be revealed,” Bailey said.
He mentioned the Penn State sex abuse scandal specifically, and criticized Governor Tom Corbett’s handling of the case.
“I represent a Sandusky victim,” he said.
But he’s also run into some professional trouble. He came close to being disbarred in 2011, accused by the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of bringing frivolous lawsuits.
Westmoreland County Dems
Bailey’s first campaign stop was in his home county on Saturday, where the Democratic committee endorsed former Lackawanna County prosecutor Kathleen Kane. She took 67 votes, Bailey got 36, and former Bucks County congressman Patrick Murphy received 31. It follows up her endorsement from the Beaver County Dems last week.
“We did our due diligence,” said Kane campaign manager Sadie Sterner Restivo on Saturday. “The outcome was what we hoped and expected.”
Westmoreland County Democratic Chairman Dante Bertani said that Bailey’s entry into the race was a surprise.
“It caught me – everyone in the committee – off guard,” Bertani said. “I was surprised, but he’ll be a formidable candidate for sure. A lot of the older people here remember him.”
State of the Race
Bailey has a steep hill to climb. His opponents have a strong head start in fundraising – $2 million on hand for Kane, $1 million for Murphy – and have campaign organizations in place.
One advantage he might have, he said, was familiarity with voters.
“I have significant name ID in Pa. I’ve run statewide before, and appeared on television numerous times,” Bailey argued.
His entry into the race certainly complicates what had looked like a two-person affair, even if it’s not clear who gets the advantage. At first blush, the presence of another Irish man’s name on the ballot cuts into Murphy and leaves Kane the possible advantage of splitting the male vote.
On the other hand, Murphy has done well consolidating support in southeast Pa. in the absence of former Philadelphia prosecutor Dan McCaffery. Kane has worked hard to woo western Pa., and Bailey’s name on the ballot could hamper her efforts on that front.
Both Kane and Murphy campaigns argued that Bailey doesn’t substantially change the dynamic of the race.
“I don’t think this changes the fact that it’s a two-person race,” said Murphy communications director Nat Binns, “between someone who has a long record of fighting for the middle class, and someone who is using her company’s money to try to buy this election.”
“Kathleen Kane remains the candidate with five times as much experience as any other Democrat running for Attorney General. Regardless of how many Congressmen seek this office, we believe Pennsylvania Democrats want to nominate a prosecutor, not a politician,” said Kane communications director Josh Morrow.
Attorney General candidates are required to collect 1,000 petition signatures, including 100 or more from at least 5 counties. The deadline to challenge Bailey’s petitions – due to the lateness of his getting on the ballot – is Friday, March 2nd.
The Republican candidate is Cumberland County District Attorney Dave Freed.