HARRISBURG – An unusual trio of Democrats is poised to be sworn in to Pennsylvania’s three statewide row offices this week, heralding a new political dynamic in a Capitol that is otherwise under firm Republican control.
Attorney General-elect Kathleen Kane, Auditor General-elect Eugene DePasquale and state Treasurer Rob McCord, who is entering his second term, followed unique paths to the independent posts that have often been stepping stones to higher office.
Kane and McCord were elected in their first bids for public office, significant accomplishments in a state as populous and diverse as Pennsylvania, even though both relied largely on personal or family wealth to finance multimillion-dollar campaigns.
DePasquale made his mark as an advocate for responsible government during six years as a state representative. He sets an example by doing things like posting his expenses online and furnishing his York County district office with yard-sale items.
“It helped establish my reform credentials and people could easily draw the connection (that) I like to focus on saving taxpayer dollars,” DePasquale said Friday.
All three offices carry the same annual salary: $155,797 as of Jan. 1.
Tuesday’s swearing-in ceremonies will mark the first time in more than three decades that Democrats have held all three row offices. The GOP holds the governorship and commands majorities in both chambers of the Legislature.
Kane, a Scranton resident who is the first Democrat and first woman to be elected attorney general since it became an elective office in 1980, is scheduled to be sworn in Tuesday afternoon in the Capitol rotunda. Two judges from Lackawanna County, where Kane formerly worked as a prosecutor, are set to administer the oath.
A reception for invited guests, who include Gov. Tom Corbett and members of the Legislature, was planned for afterward at the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts.
Kane, 46, who received more votes than either President Barack Obama or U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, said the significance of her election as Pennsylvania’s chief legal officer hit home only in recent days.
“It really was an overwhelming positive feeling,” she said in a telephone interview Thursday. “My kids are excited, we’re excited and I am dying to get to work.”
Kane will succeed Linda Kelly, a Republican whom Corbett picked to finish his term as attorney general after he became governor in 2011. Kelly did not seek a full term.
Kane said she will appoint a special deputy to fulfill her campaign pledge to scrutinize the handling of the state investigation that led to the conviction of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky on 45 counts of child sexual abuse.
She has questioned why the investigation took nearly three years – a period mostly under Corbett’s watch as attorney general that included his 2010 gubernatorial campaign. He has denied playing politics with the investigation and said he would likely agree to meet with Kane’s investigators if he’s convinced the probe is not politically motivated.
The other row officers also will take their oaths Tuesday afternoon, but at sites outside the Capitol building. DePasquale’s ceremony will be in the auditorium of the Pennsylvania State Museum next door while McCord, a former venture capitalist initially elected in 2008, will take his oath at the Keystone Building across the street.
State Supreme Court Justice Debra Todd is scheduled to administer the oath at both ceremonies.
As auditor general, the 41-year-old DePasquale will serve as an independent fiscal watchdog for programs managed by the Corbett administration, and other levels of government. Initial priorities include audits to determine the adequacy of state water-protection programs, the effectiveness of job-creation programs and the integrity of funding for schools, he said.
“We still need to make sure that, at the local level, the money that’s supposed to be going to the classroom is” getting there, he said.
In addition to his statewide victory in the Nov. 6 election, DePasquale was elected to a fourth term in the House of Representatives. He plans to resign Tuesday to take his new job. A special election will be scheduled to choose a successor.