In rare victory for Democrats, Shapiro wins Pennsylvania AG race

Montgomery County executive Josh Shapiro will be Pennsylvania’s next Attorney General, tasked with revitalizing an office marred by scandal.

Shapiro bested long-time Republican state Sen. John Rafferty, providing a bit of solace for Pennsylvania Democrats on a night when the national party suffered staggering losses.

“I intend to do my part, as your attorney general, to begin to restore people’s confidence in our justice system,” said Shapiro, “and … to apply the laws of this commonwealth without fear and without favor and to be the people’s attorney general.”

Shapiro outpaced the top of the ticket, earning 51 percent of the vote on a night when Hillary Clinton and Senate Candidate Katie McGinty captured 48 and 47 percent of the Keystone State vote.

Shapiro is the second Democrat ever elected to the Attorney General’s office in Pennsylvania, and his tenure may be judged by how well he cleans up after the first.

Kathleen Kane was seen as a rising star in the Democratic Party when she swept into office in 2012, but she was undone by a scandal that ended in her conviction on perjury charges.

Shapiro, 43, is also seen as potential star in the making. By 31 he was already a state legislator, garnering headlines for his efficacy in Harrisburg. In 2012 he became chair of the Montgomery County Commissioners, earning executive experience that he often referenced in his campaign.

Shapiro’s opponent, Rafferty, tried to paint the up-and-comer as too green for the job. Rafferty was a deputy attorney general from 1988 to 1991, while Shapiro has focused much of his career energy in the political arena.

But Shapiro countered by framing himself as a reformer who could shake up the status quo and root out corruption.

At the Downingtown Country Club Tuesday night, Rafferty conceded the election to Shapiro just before midnight, thanking his staff, supporters, and fellow legislators.

“It’s certainly a difficult time for me, because we put two years into this,” said Rafferty, “but the public has spoken.”

Rafferty will continue serving in the state Senate, where he represents the 44th District, which includes parts of Berks, Chester, and Montgomery Counties.

Supporter Jessica Curtis, of Honeybrook, expressed disappointment at the loss but praised Rafferty for his ability to work across the aisle in Harrisburg.

“He’s not just someone up there doing nothing. He’s actually doing a lot, and he’s working with everybody to get stuff done,” said Curtis. “I was really hoping he would win after the Kathleen Kane debacle, but he didn’t. And now he’s still my state Senator so at least he’s still here working hard for us.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.