Candidate Freed visits River Wards

David Freed (left), the district attorney in Cumberland County who is running for attorney general, Bob Branstetter (center), and Marc Collazzo (right) sit down to talk about David’s intentions at the Aramingo Diner, Wednesday, September 12, 2012, Philadelphia, Pa. (Maria Pouchnikova)

David Freed expects to divide the last seven weeks of his campaign between stops in southeastern and western Pennsylvania.

“I’ll be learning the turnpike real well,” he said.

Freed, the Republican candidate for Pennsylvania attorney general, made a campaign stop last week at the Aramingo Diner, at 3356 Aramingo Ave. in Port Richmond.

State Rep. John Taylor (R-177th dist.) brought Freed to the diner on Sept. 12 to meet with local newspaper reporters.

Freed has gotten to know Taylor and other state lawmakers in his capacity as district attorney of Cumberland County, a mid-size county of about 240,000 people not too far from Harrisburg. As district attorney of a county near the state capital, he has advocated to the legislature on various issues.

“Freed seems like a good guy,” Taylor said.

In the Nov. 6 election, Freed will face Democrat Kathleen Kane and Libertarian Marakay Rogers.

A lawyer from York, Rogers must survive a court challenge to remain on the ballot. Republicans are trying to knock Libertarian candidates off the ballot, arguing that they do not have sufficient nominating petitions. Rogers ran in 2008, taking 1.9 percent of the vote.

Kane is a former assistant district attorney in Lackawanna County. In the primary, she defeated former Bucks County congressman Patrick Murphy, thanks in part to an endorsement from former President Bill Clinton.

Freed believes the difference between him and Kane is his tenure as district attorney.

“Executive experience makes me most qualified for the job. Once you take the oath of office, the wins and losses are on you,” he said. “I have the ideas and energy to do the job. I’ve got a good story to tell.”

Freed, 42, lives in Camp Hill with his wife Amy and three children. His father-in-law is former state Attorney General LeRoy Zimmerman.

The candidate is pro-life and a member of the NRA, and proclaims himself a fan of the Flyers, 76ers, Eagles and Phillies.

In 1997, he served as a deputy prosecutor in York County. He moved to the Cumberland County DA’s office in 1998, prosecuting insurance fraud cases. He became the first assistant district attorney in 2001 and was appointed to the top job when the then-DA joined the state attorney general’s office. He was elected in 2007 and re-elected in 2011 without opposition.

In office, he has developed relationships with Philadelphia’s current and former district attorneys, Seth Williams and Lynne Abraham. At present, he is vice president of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association.

Republicans have won all eight races for attorney general since the post became an elected office in 1980. However, Democrats enjoy a voter-registration advantage of more than 1 million, and many of the races have been close.

GOP candidates for attorney general have been able to prevail despite heavy losses in Philadelphia. Four years ago, Tom Corbett lost the city by almost 391,000 votes to Democrat John Morganelli, but won statewide by more than 383,000 votes. Freed said he will target Republican voters in the city to get them to the polls.

Republicans have overtaken Democrats when rural votes are reported late. In fact, media outlets have declared Democrats Allen Ertel (1984), Joe Kohn (1996) and Jim Eisenhower (2004) the winners without waiting for all the votes to be counted.

Freed expects a tight battle with Kane.

“It will be very close, one way or another,” he said. “It’s going to be a long night. It will be decided after midnight by under fifty-thousand votes.”

If elected, Freed would like to implement new programs, but he understands the budget constraints. He’s dealt with budget issues in a conservative county in central Pennsylvania and has been forced to prioritize.

“I think that’s what the next attorney general has to do at the state level. The state budget is not going up,” he said.

When planning the prosecution of a case, Freed will determine whether it has the best chance to succeed in the attorney general’s office, a local district attorney’s office or in the federal courts.

In office, he would seek to fund surveillance cameras, police car video equipment and anti-gun violence efforts, particularly in Philadelphia.

“That’s a place I see the attorney general leading,” he said.

Freed, whose parents were educators, also wants to be part of a bipartisan team of district attorneys, police chiefs and county sheriffs to promote early childhood education as a way to keep young people from becoming victims or perpetrators of crime.

As for the illegal drug issue, Freed favors putting a heavy presence of law enforcement officers on the street to arrest dealers.

“We’ve got to disrupt their business,” he said.

Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215–354–3034 or twaring@bsmphilly.com.