A chance to look for innovation
Kathleen Kane's campaign for attorney general was based largely on the differences between her priorities and those of the "boys in Harrisburg." Ms. Kane is the first woman and the first Democrat to be elected state attorney general, but the differences she stressed have to do with much more than gender and party.
The attorney general-elect, the highest statewide vote-getter with more than 3 million, will have an early opportunity to demonstrate what she meant.
Consumer Advocate Irwin "Sonny" Popowski, 61, who was appointed by former Attorney General Ernest D. Preate Jr. in 1990, recently retired after 22 years in that position and 33 years in the office. Ms. Kane, then, will have the opportunity to name his replacement.
The consumer advocate's office is independent. Its main mission is to represent consumer interests before the state Public Utility Commission, which has a checkered history in recognizing the public interest - as when it recently blithely rubber-stamped PPL's plan to desecrate Northeast Pennsylvania's ridgetops with a power line into New Jersey, which could have and should have followed a more direct route.
Mr. Popowski, who at the time of his retirement was the longest-serving state consumer advocate in the nation, was hard-working and genuinely interested in the consumers' interests.
He had served for 11 years in the office before becoming consumer advocate, however. With his retirement, Ms. Kane has the opportunity to apply an independent, outside analysis to the office. She should look nationally for someone with an established track record as an innovative, aggressive consumer advocate who can shake up the routine, cozy PUC-utility relationship as much as she has vowed to shake up Harrisburg itself. Consumer protection is a great place to begin.