Kathy Granahan, as she was once known, was the hardworking kid of an Irish family from the rough side of town who talked her way into law school, moved to and then ditched the big city, married the scion of a wealthy and powerful Scranton family, and spent the next decade trying to strike that nigh-impossible balance between career woman and dedicated mom.
A lot of politicians claim working-class backgrounds. Kane actually has one. Her dad was a janitor who picked up odd jobs when he could. Mom worked at a Turkey Hill and tended bar. They split when Kane was in seventh grade. “It was ugly,” Kane says. “It was hard for a while.” A lot of nights, Kane, her two brothers and her identical twin sister ate Lucky Charms for dinner.
And yet Kane clings tenaciously to her West Side past. Friends tell me they still go on rides with her in the old neighborhood, listening to Springsteen and Bon Jovi, driving past the homes that her high-school gang grew up in. “In West Side, you know, people don’t have a lot of money, but we are very tough,” Kane says. “We don’t take any bull from anybody. We do what we think is right.”
Kane didn’t leave Scranton until 1990, when she was admitted to Temple University’s law school despite what she says were mediocre LSAT scores. She left a clingy ex-boyfriend behind, got an apartment in Center City, and began working on her long-held dream of becoming a “high-priced lawyer in New York or somewhere.”
She landed at the Center City firm of Post & Schell after graduation, mostly handling workers’-comp cases. Soon she grew bored: “I got to the point where it was not a challenge to me. To prepare for a deposition, I’d just read the file in the cab on the way over.”
Kane, then 28, gave notice and headed back to Scranton, where a cousin lay on her deathbed. Kane landed a job in the Lackawanna County district attorney’s office, and she stayed for 12 years. Boredom was no longer a problem. “There is no comparison to getting justice for someone,” Kane says. “We can’t give a family their daughter’s life back. The only thing we can give them, and the only thing that they hang onto, is getting justice in that courtroom, knowing that someone is being held accountable for their actions.”
After 12 years, though, Kane had climbed as high up the ladder as she could. The district attorney was a good friend, and Kane wouldn’t consider running against him. Money was no longer a concern. She had married Chris Kane, who is part of a very wealthy Scranton family that runs a logistics and trucking business called Kane Is Able. So she quit, thinking it was time to be a full-time stay-at-home mother to her two sons. The transition was rough: “When I walked out the doors at work the last day, I just had this tremendous feeling of, ‘Oh my God, now what?’”
Kane filled some of the hours volunteering on the Pennsylvania presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. That was a nasty, racially divisive election, and it left Kane with a strong distaste for campaigning. But she listened, nonetheless, when family friend Patrick Brier—a political consultant and Scranton attorney—took her and her husband to lunch at the State Street Grill and told her she should run for attorney general. Kane was shocked, then intrigued. She wondered if the family’s money would be enough, if victory was possible, if she was even qualified for the position. “So I googled the résumés of all the attorney generals. I thought, heck yeah, I’m qualified.”
They hatched a plan. Husband Chris would quit his day job to take care of the kids. Kane would commute—both during the campaign and later, in office—from Scranton, so as not to miss too many Little League games or family dinners.
The primary was supposed to be Patrick Murphy’s to lose. The former congressman from Bucks County had locked up the support of virtually the entire Southeast. He was an Iraq war veteran, and a liberal who had won a seat in a moderate district.
Then came Kane, sucking up oxygen with her attacks on Corbett and the Sandusky investigation. She spent $2.3 million in family cash during the primary. On top of that, there was the enthusiastic endorsement of former president Bill Clinton, who was both paying Kane back for supporting Hillary and paying Murphy back for choosing Obama.
Kane won by 5.6 points. The general election was a farce. She trounced an underwhelming Republican candidate by 14.5 points to become the first woman and Democrat elected Pennsylvania attorney general. When she was sworn in on January 15th, she wore a white suit. It stood out sharply in the sea of single-breasted navy and gray.