His Democratic opponent criticizes him for it, but Patrick Murphy sure isn't shy about his ambitions or what he thinks he can accomplish as Pennsylvania's attorney general.
At a rally Thursday night in East Liberty, joined by Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa and Allegheny County chief executive Rich Fitzgerald, he talked about the state's responsibility to crack down on gun crime, but also addressed environmental violations by Marcellus Shale drillers, homophobia, his service in Iraq with the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General Corps and Corbett administration public education cuts.
"We have to be tough and smart, not just on crime but the causes of crime. When you cut $1.2 billion from education that is a crime bill," he told about 75 supporters at the Shadow Lounge, after a performance by the Dilworth Traditional Academy band. "And I know I don't have the budgetary authority [over education]. I get it. But [I want] to use the office of Attorney General as a bully pulpit, to testify in Congress, to be a partner with people like Jay Costa, to say 'this is wrong.'"
Murphy's opponent, former Lackawanna County prosecutor Kathleen Kane, has a good deal of traditional Democratic support in the campaign, from the endorsement of former President Bill Clinton to her family's longstanding ties to U.S. Sen. Bob Casey. Murphy, who served the Philadelphia suburbs for two terms in Congress before losing in 2010, has the support of Obama advisor David Axelrod and liberal (aka, "progressive") Democrats such as Pittsburgh councilman Bill Peduto, who hosted Thursday's rally.
"What we need in this state is somebody who is independent, courageous and strong as our attorney general, and who has proven it," said Peduto. "At this time, in what's happening in this state, when you think about things like Marcellus Shale drilling and how it will effect the water that we drink, do you want somebody who will make sure corporations are being responsible? Do you want to take a risk, or do you want somebody who's proven it?"
Mercifully, Murphy didn't make standard Philadelphian-in-Pittsburgh jokes about the Flyers or Eagles, but did go into his standard lines about being the "1987 altar boy of the year," his wife and two kids, and being one of the lead voices in opposition to the military's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy on gays and lesbians.
The boxlike Shadow Lounge can be a loud place -- especially with more than a dozen elementary school kids all playing drums, or squirming through a political speech -- but it went dead silent when Murphy wrapped up with a story about a gay soldier in Afghanistan who received a "Dear John" letter from his boyfriend back home. Regular protocol is for soldiers to meet with their commander and chaplain when that happens, but this soldier had to stay silent, and he wrote Murphy saying he was holding his 9mm pistol and thinking of shooting himself.
"He said the only thing giving me hope is this Iraq war veteran Patrick Murphy that I know is fighting for me," Murphy told the crowd. "That is why we fight so hard. That is why we do what we do."