This week, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette endorsed conservative Republican nominee Heather Heidelbaugh for Attorney General over Democrat incumbent Josh Shapiro. The Editorial Board recognizes that Heather’s years of experience as a proven prosecutor, dedication to serving the role of Attorney General, unlike career politician Shapiro who is focused on higher political aspirations, and commitment to ensuring due process for all makes her the more qualified candidate.
Read the full endorsement article here and also below.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro is a bright and able man who has done some fine things as AG, but the commonwealth needs something, and someone, different in that office now.
That person is Pittsburgh-area attorney Heather Heidelbaugh.
Mr. Shapiro brought order and professionalism to the AG’s office after it was wracked by scandal.
He also went to bat for Pittsburghers in need of medical care when he sided with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in its crusade to obtain access for all to UPMC health facilities and providers.. These were highly laudable actions for which we should all be grateful.
But Pennsylvania now needs a top-flight attorney as attorney general, one who will remain as attorney general and not be moving on or up.
Ms. Heidelbaugh is a veteran litigator who wishes to return the office to its more traditional role as the state’s public law firm.
She has no apparent designs on a U.S. Senate seat or the governorship. She sees the AG’s office as, ideally, apolitical, essentially juridical.
Mr. Shapiro is far more a politician and, as an able and ambitious one, he has used the office in the way that many of his contemporary attorneys general do — as a bully pulpit and advocacy agency.
Maybe that means that a particular cause, like access to health care in Pittsburgh, would get more press conferences from Mr. Shapiro than Ms. Heidelbaugh. But we have no reason to think that she would care less about the people of this region. After all, it is her home. She lives in Mt. Lebanon, has practiced in the city for years and is a former county official.
It would be nice to have one of our own in Harrisburg.
Politicians from Pittsburgh know where Philadelphia and Harrisburg are. Politicians from the east of the state discover Western Pennsylvania when they run for state office.
But, chiefly, what qualifies Ms. Heidelbaugh is her grounding in the law, and what we believe is her correct model for the office: chief lawyer for the state, not chief advocate for all that a particular AG thinks is good.
Mr. Shapiro’s grounding is thoroughly in politics, which raises the question of his further ambition. He will almost surely seek the governorship or a Senate seat two years hence. That would mean that he does not serve the entire term of the office he is now seeking. More troubling is that he will not candidly admit this.
Once again, Mr. Shapiro is far more the politician than the lawyer.
But the most troubling manifestation of that identity was Mr. Shapiro’s work on the grand jury report on sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy. Ms. Heidelbaugh says Mr. Shapiro was so intent on shining a light on a grave injustice (and the abuse and cover-ups were a grave injustice), that he forgot about due process. An accused person who cannot be tried because of the statute of limitations cannot, she says, themselves get justice. He can be accused but not tried. He has, she insists, no legal forum in which to argue for his innocence.
And obviously the dead cannot obtain their day in court.
The end — justice for the abused — does not, Ms. Heidelbaugh says, justify the means (accusation without trial).
She is right.
And Mr. Shapiro’s argument that the accused could refute accusations in addenda to the back pages of the grand jury report is utterly unpersuasive — indeed, embarrassingly lame.
The chief law enforcement officer of a state cannot give due process short shrift.
There is nothing wrong with being a politician. There is nothing wrong with being an ambitious one. Probably Mr. Shapiro will be a governor or a senator one day. And he will do well, and maybe even go higher.
But in this job, at this moment, Pennsylvania needs a lawyer. We need someone who will put the law ahead of the cameras and will be a stickler for due process.
The Post-Gazette thanks Mr. Shapiro for cleaning up his office and taking on UPMC, but we endorse Heather Heidelbaugh for attorney general of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.