Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has tapped Assistant U.S. Attorney Linda Kelly of Allegheny County to replace him as Attorney General.
“I’ve known Linda Kelly, actually, since 1976, when we were assistant district attorneys together,” he said at a Capitol press conference Tuesday. “We’ve served together as assistant United States attorneys. I’ve watched her career and seen the good work that she has done, the good judgment she has.”
Kelly graduated from the University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne University School of Law, and has been at the U.S. Attorney’s office since 1980. “I bring some experience to the table here. I’ve been an assistant district attorney in Allegheny County for a number of years. I’ve worked as an assistant United States attorney, and on two occasions I’ve been entrusted, so to speak, with heading the U.S. attorneys’ office in Pittsburgh,” she said, referring to her two stints as acting U.S. attorney.
Kelly will need the support of 34 senators in a confirmation vote. Corbett knows first-hand that confirmations can get rocky. His hearing and vote were held up for months in 1995 when he was nominated to fill the term vacated by Ernie Preate. He said he’s confident Kelly won’t go through a similar experience.
“I’ve had good conversations with Sen. Scarnati, Sen. Pileggi and Sen. Costa. [I] talked with them yesterday about who I was nominating,” he said. “And I would hope that we’d be able to move this along as swiftly as possible.” In a statement, Sen. Dominic Pileggi, the Republican Majority Leader, called Kelly “eminently qualified.”
Following tradition, Kelly has vowed not to run for re-election. She’ll step down from her post in the U.S. attorney’s office following a Senate vote. Kelly would be Pennsylvania’s first female attorney general since 1961.
Among her responsibilities would be continuing the high-profile investigation of state lawmakers Corbett began in 2007. When asked about the investigation, Kelly and Corbett both pointed out she wouldn’t learn any of its details until after confirmation. That’s a political benefit, since Kelly can rightfully claim ignorance about the investigation when she’s meeting with and testifying before the very lawmakers it’s targeting.
The announcement was Corbett’s first public appearance since taking office three weeks ago, aside from an open house at the governor’s mansion. He alluded to his low profile early in the press conference, saying, “When I held my first and only news conference since November – and I know you all have been commenting on that lately – I was asked…what qualities I was looking for in the attorney general. And I think I said this: experience, good judgment and common sense.”
Later, a reporter asked Corbett what he’s been doing over the past month. He said he’s been knee-deep in budget preparation.
“You should know my style by now. When I have something to announce to you, we will come out and announce it,” he said. “I think any time an executive comes into a new job you ought to take a look and see what’s there first and get to know it.”
Corbett said learning all the budget details was like “drinking from a fire hose. That fire hose is about this wide,” he said, holding his hands far apart, due to the impending multibillion-dollar budget gap.