Corbett’s pick for Pa. attorney general advances

    Gov. Tom Corbett’s pick to replace him as Pennsylvania attorney general has cleared a key hurdle, winning approval from the state Senate Judiciary Committee. The panel unanimously recommended Assistant U.S. Attorney Linda Kelly, who will need to win the support of two-thirds of the full Senate.

    Kelly faced only 15 minutes of questions, including one from Republican John Rafferty, who asked, “Have you had familiarity with working with grand juries, and do you plan on using them as effectively as your predecessor has as a tool to weed out crime and corruption?”

    A grand jury, of course, continues to investigate corruption at the Capitol. Twenty-five House lawmakers and staffers have been charged, with nine guilty pleas or verdicts and one acquittal. Nothing has ever been filed against any senators or Senate staffers.

    If Tuesday’s hearing is any indication, Kelly will easily win the Senate votes she needs. Minority Leader Jay Costa introduced her, calling her “highly qualified,” adding he’s “sure that she will be” confirmed.

    Kelly has worked at the Pittsburgh U.S. attorney’s office since 1980, and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne University School of Law. She’s known Corbett since 1976, and served as his top aide when he was U.S. attorney, but told the panel she’d maintain independence from the governor’s office.

    “If an attorney general were to be influenced by the administration, then I think the likelihood that they would also be influenced by all other types of outside factors and forces would be a good bet, as well,” she said. “And I don’t think that the governor, I don’t think this committee, would want that kind of influence to take place. And I, myself, would not wish to be a part of it.”

    The Senate Rules Committee needs to consider Kelly’s nomination before the full Senate votes. Following political tradition, she has promised not to run for re-election, and would only serve until January 2013.

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