Josh Shapiro, the chairman of Montgomery County's commissioners, said Monday that he is running for state attorney general, joining a crowded field vying to succeed the embattled Kathleen Kane in the November election.
Shapiro's entry into the race sets up what could be an expensive Democratic Party primary on April 26. Shapiro, who was recruited unsuccessfully by party elders last spring to run for U.S. Senate, reported last month that he had $1.4 million in his campaign account.
Shapiro is a lawyer but has never been a prosecutor or criminal defense lawyer and will be the only candidate in the race without that kind of experience. Still, he insisted he has the credentials to fix an attorney general's office riven by scandal, and he cited a record as an ethics reformer in government.
"There is a clear contrast in this race, and I think Pennsylvanians are looking for a leader who understands how to clean up a mess and has proven to have a record of integrity and the judgment to make the right calls," Shapiro said.
At least four other Democrats have indicated they plan to seek the party's nomination. They include Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala, Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, former Allegheny County Councilman David Fawcett and former county and federal prosecutor Jack Stollsteimer. The only Republican in the race is Sen. John Rafferty, of Montgomery.
Candidates have until Feb. 16 to gather enough voter signatures to qualify for the primary ballot. The primary election is April 26.
Every elected attorney general in Pennsylvania has had at least some experience in a county, state or federal prosecutor's office.
Besides leading Pennsylvania's third most populous county since 2012, Shapiro is Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's appointee atop the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. A one-time congressional aide, he also is a former eight-year state House representative who gained a reputation as a leading ethics advocate in Harrisburg.
Shapiro noted that he took over as chairman in Montgomery County after his predecessor had been arrested. The county has a $389 million annual budget and more than 2,300 employees, several times bigger than the attorney general's office.
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Shapiro said he would make a formal campaign announcement Tuesday in an open letter.
In the letter, he says the task before him is to "rebuild the Office of Attorney General and restore integrity to our justice system," citing scandals including the pornographic emails roiling state government.
Kane won the office in a landslide in 2012 and could run for a second term despite facing criminal charges and lacking a law license. Kane is seeking the restoration of her law license from the state Supreme Court and is battling an attempt by the Senate to remove her from office.
The first-term Democrat awaits trial in Montgomery County on charges she illegally leaked secret grand jury material to embarrass a rival and lied about it under oath. No trial date has been set. Wolf has called on Kane to resign.