Inside the race for Pennsylvania’s Attorney General

Here’s a look at the candidates seeking to be the state’s highest prosecutorial power in the general election.

Josh Shapiro (D-Incumbent)

Shapiro is running for re-election on a platform emphasizing his commitment to civil rights, marijuana legalization and reproductive rights, highlighted by his involvement in a joint suit against United States President Donald Trump administration’s gag rule that prevents health professionals from referring patients to abortion services. 

Shapiro is concerned about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Black and Brown communities, he said.

“We’ve seen laid bare the inequities in our system, and how poor communities, Black and Brown communities have really felt the brunt of this crisis both on the health side, and the economic side,” Shapiro said.

Shapiro is also addressing Philadelphia’s gun violence epidemic, he said. 

Shapiro’s office worked with the office of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner to launch the Gun Violence Task Force in 2019, according to the attorney general website.

“We’ve got to continue to prioritize public safety, all across Philadelphia,” Shapiro said. “But especially in North Philadelphia where the gun violence epidemic is out of control.”

Shapiro believes the task force has been successful in the past year in combating gun trafficking by increasing the amount of crime gun data that law enforcement agencies share with one another, he said in a release about the task force’s annual report this year. However, gun violence is continuing to surge in Philadelphia, with the Philadelphia Police Department reporting more than 1,700 shootings in the city this year, the highest yearly total since 2015. 

Regarding student debt, Shapiro sued loan servicing company Navient Corporation and its subsidiary, Navient Solutions LLC., in 2017 for predatory lending, including $4 billion in interest charges between 2010 and 2015, according to the attorney general website.

Shapiro won an interim victory in the case on July 28 when the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that individual borrowers and states could sue Navient. Navient had previously argued that federal law blocked this, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Shapiro also sued the for-profit cosmetology school American Beauty Academy Lancaster after it permanently shut down without properly notifying its students. This resulted in the school opening a 60-day window for former students to file claims and see if they were eligible to receive recompensation for the money they paid the school, according to the attorney general website

“I have taken on the for-profit colleges who have screwed over countless students,” Shapiro said. “And not only have I shut down those for-profit colleges, but I’ve been able to return over $16 million to students with student debt cancellation, for those who’ve had debt at those for profit colleges.”

Shapiro recently filed lawsuits against the U.S. Postal Service in response to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s implementation of operational changes, like limiting staff overtime and extra shifts. Shapiro believes these changes have impacted the “prompt” delivery of mail to Pennsylvanians, including their mail-in ballots, by delaying the distribution of “letters, paychecks or bills,” according to his website.

“I am in court right now defending against the attacks by the president, and trying to make it a smooth process for you to vote,” Shapiro said.

Shapiro has been endorsed by major figures in the Democratic Party, including former President Barack Obama, former Democratic primary candidate Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Bob Casey, as well as gun violence advocacy group Brady PAC and activist Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter, Jaime, was killed in the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Shapiro said he will continue to battle the state’s opioid crisis, prosecute fracking companies for environmental violations and pursue further litigation against predatory lenders if reelected, according to his website

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