2024 Primary

‘These fights are personal to me’: A Q&A with AG candidate Eugene DePasquale

DePasquale talks with City & State about his campaign for AG and the stakes of the election.

Eugene DePasquale speaks at a press conference in 2020 during his time as Pennsylvania auditor general.

Eugene DePasquale speaks at a press conference in 2020 during his time as Pennsylvania auditor general. Commonwealth Media Services

Eugene DePasquale is no stranger to state government. A former state representative and two-term auditor general, DePasquale is hoping to lean on his Harrisburg experience to secure the Democratic nomination for attorney general on April 23.

DePasquale, who is in a five-way race for the Democratic nomination, recently took time to speak with City & State about the stakes of Pennsylvania's 2024 attorney general race, his top priorities if elected and what sets him apart from the rest of the Democratic field.

This conversation has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

What motivated you to run for AG?

I know the issues at stake are extremely critical, and it’s important that we have someone who upholds the right values. When it comes to the right to abortion, protecting our democracy, and protecting our environment, the alternative to not having someone with those values as attorney general could be detrimental to our state for decades to come. I knew I had a record of protecting Pennsylvanians and I also knew I had a record of winning, so I jumped into this.

Are the stakes higher in this year’s election?

There is zero doubt in my mind that this is the most consequential attorney general election in Pennsylvania history. As a Pennsylvanian, I’m glad Josh Shapiro was there in 2020. Regardless of how the votes are cast this November, those same battles will be here this November, as well. So moving forward, it’s important we have an attorney general who, in my view, is going to enforce the law – every law – and do it in a balanced way.

That’s something I’ve done as auditor general. I was tough and fair on Gov. Tom Corbett. I was tough and fair on Gov. Tom Wolf. I know that sometimes irked people in both parties, but that’s the type of leadership I’m going to bring as attorney general. When it comes to democracy, which I think is probably the most critical issue that's going to be on the ballot this November, I want to make sure that the voters are the ones that actually pick their next leaders, and make sure that everyone who legally cast a vote has that vote counted. That’s what I’m going to be fighting to protect.

How do you expect your Harrisburg experience to translate to this new role?

The first thing I think is important when it comes to my previous roles is that people know me and they know I have a record of protecting Pennsylvanians. Look at my investigation of finding the over 3,000 untested rape kits and bringing justice to victims; my investigation finding 50,000 unanswered phone calls to the child abuse hotline; investigating the school safety plans of every single school district in this state; taking on Real Alternatives and finding they were basically giving fraudulent information to pregnant women. That's the type of record I have protecting Pennsylvanians

Also protecting the environment – the first thing I did as auditor general was investigate the Marcellus Shale drillers. Those are the types of investigations that I believe separate me, because I’m the only one who has conducted complicated statewide investigations before. That is very similar to what the attorney general does.

What are some of your top priorities for this office?

It starts with protecting democracy. If we don’t have that, then these other issues become a lot less relevant if we don’t have our democracy. Once we preserve that – and I believe we will, regardless of who the voters vote for, I believe we will. Once we have that, certainly it’ll be abortion rights, protecting consumers, protecting our environment and also making sure that we have public safety across the state – those would be our top four areas.

There’s been a lot of talk about crime in Pennsylvania, everything from retail crime to violent crime and carjacking. How would you utilize the tools of this office to try and go after crime?

First of all, we have to distinguish between violent and nonviolent crime. If someone commits a violent offense, we have to punish them. If someone has an addiction problem, we have to approach that battle differently. I’ve seen firsthand this addiction battle with my dad. He was wounded in Vietnam, was prescribed synthetic heroin by the VA and eventually it led to a 30-year battle with addiction – and eventually incarceration. My dad made a mistake, he paid his debt to society over that. For people who are battling addiction, we have to make sure that we’re using this opioid settlement to get these individuals the help they need.

If someone commits a violent offense, we’ve got to hold those people fully accountable. If people want to know what type of attorney general I’ll be, just go on to YouTube and type in ‘Peach Bowl Brawl.’ And when that woman gets knocked down at the Peach Bowl, there’s one person who steps in, gets in the middle of it to protect her. That’s the type of attorney general I’m going to be – willing to get in the middle of anything to protect Pennsylvanians.

What separates you from the rest of the Democratic candidates? 

First of all, it’s an impressive field; I think we all have our strengths. There are two things that I think specifically distinguish me: No. 1: I have a record of protecting Pennsylvanians in every single county of our state. I’m the only one that's run a complicated statewide agency. 

No. 2: I'm the only one who has won statewide before. I’ve won statewide twice, including once when Trump was on the ballot. So I think those two combinations are what separates me from the field.

I believe I’m the only Steeler fan, as well.

Is there anything else you want voters to know about you?

What you see is what you get. A lot of these battles are personal to me, whether it comes to addiction, gun violence, what happened to my dad. Also, what corporations are capable of doing to people and health insurance companies are capable of doing to people – my brother had muscular dystrophy, and because of that, we never had health insurance when I was a kid. He passed away; we had to take out loans just to pay for the funeral. My dad had to come to that funeral in shackles, all because of what health insurance companies were capable of doing to people.

I’m going to make sure that I’m taking those big interests on to fight for everyday Pennsylvanians. The main point I want to leave everyone with is this: These fights are personal to me. I know the struggle. I know what people are going through. For the 1% that can afford a big-time law firm or a big-time attorney to defend them, they may not need me, but for 99% of Pennsylvanians, I want to be their attorney.