For the third time in a year, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey injected himself into a contested statewide Democratic primary election race today.
He strongly endorsed Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro for state attorney general.

Sen. Bob Casey, left, & Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro

Sen. Bob Casey, left, & Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro


At a United Neighborhood Centers community room in South Scranton, Mr. Casey said Mr. Shapiro will follow a motto inscribed on a wall in the state Finance Building in Harrisburg. (Mr. Casey used to work there, you know, eight years as auditor general and two as treasurer.)
The motto: All public service is a trust given in faith and accepted in honor. Mr. Casey even reminded the approximately 50 mostly senior citizens awaiting a pre-Easter party of his late father, saying Gov. Robert Casey believed in that motto.
“I believe Josh Shapiro is going to be the next attorney general for Pennsylvania,” Mr. Casey said. “When he is elected to that high office, that critically important office, I have no doubt that he will accept that public trust with honor and earn that trust every single day that he’s the attorney general of Pennsylvania. I can say that because I know him well.”
Mr. Casey said he ranks Mr. Shapiro as high as anyone he’s encountered in state government.
“Of all those public officials that I’ve met, I can’t place anyone higher in terms of ability and ethics and integrity than Josh Shapiro,” he said. “I know him well. I know his heart, I know his character, I know his competence. Probably now more than ever, in public office, across our state and even across the country, we need people that are grounded in the kind of public service and integrity that Josh has demonstrated.”
Mr. Shapiro, a former state representative and chairman of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency who has no prosecutorial experience, outlined a six-point plan to protect senior citizens. He said he would:
— Work with county area agencies on aging to thwart financial abuse.
— Enlist banks to help detect abuse.
— Increase information sharing among agencies to identify patterns of abuse.
— Train law enforcement to target abuse.
— Establish regional financial fraud and identity theft task forces.
— Expand protection from abuse orders to cover non-family who care for senior citizens.
Mr. Shapiro, who has made ethics and integrity the theme of his campaign, said he thinks the endorsement will help distinguish him statewide from the other Democratic candidates because of Mr. Casey’s ethical reputation. The other Democrats are Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli and Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala.
“Sen. Casey traditionally stays out of endorsing in state races, which is why his endorsement is so meaningful to me,” Mr. Shapiro said. “And I think what it does is it lets people across the commonwealth know that with him supporting me, maybe they give me a second look.”
Last April, Mr. Casey endorsed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the presidential race over Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb.
Last Friday, Mr. Casey endorsed former state environmental secretary Katie McGinty for the U.S. Senate over former congressman Joe Sestak, Braddock Mayor John Fetterman and Joseph Vodvarka of Allegheny County.
In earlier years, Mr. Casey generally avoided pre-primary endorsements, though he backed Sen. Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential race when Mrs. Clinton was still contesting the nomination.
Mr. Morganelli appeared unphased by the nomination.
“Josh is the establishment’s candidate because the politicians know they can control him due to his complete inexperience for this job,” Mr. Morganelli said in an email.
Marty Marks, a spokesman for Mr. Zappala, said he respects Mr. Casey and looks forward to working with him when he is elected, but painted the senator as part of the state’s Eastern political elite.
“Steve is a prosecutor and not a politician. He has never been a political insider or part of the Harrisburg culture like Josh Shapiro. It is not a surprise to us to see the political elite in Eastern Pennsylvania circling their wagons around one of their own,” Mr. Marks said.
— BORYS KRAWCZENIUK