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Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry brings local roots to her new job

Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry brings local roots to her new job
Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry brings local roots to her new job 02:54

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — With Josh Shapiro now governor, Pennsylvania has a new attorney general — Michelle Henry.

In an exclusive interview seen only on KDKA-TV, political editor Jon Delano talked to Henry about her local roots in this region and the issues she plans to confront.

Meet Henry, a native of Greensburg and a graduate of Allegheny College in Meadville.

"I went to Greensburg-Salem High School, and I actually interned, started my legal career, at the Westmoreland County District Attorney's Office, so I have fond memories of that," Henry said. "My parents both live in that area, so I would come back to visit.  My best friends are still from Greensburg, Pennsylvania."

Shapiro has named Henry, who was his first deputy in the AG's office, as his replacement, a position that needs confirmation by the state Senate. Henry, a Democrat, says if confirmed she will not run for election in 2024.

"Even if they didn't make me make that pledge, I would not be running for attorney general. I never set out to be attorney general when I took this position. I am happy to do it for these two years and carry out what we started, but I do not want to run and I won't run," says Henry.

Henry is a skilled courtroom prosecutor, not a politician, gaining most of her experience back east in Bucks County, where she successfully prosecuted former Attorney General Kathleen Kane and focused on child abuse cases before Shapiro hired her six years ago.

"My experience at Bucks County was tremendous. I spent a lot of time prosecuting child abuse cases and really being the voice for victims.  And it was a wonderful experience."

Henry says she wants to build on the work of Shapiro as attorney general but acknowledges she's different than the governor.

"We built a great team, did great work the past six years and I want the strength and stability of the attorney general's office to continue for the next two years," Henry said. "But obviously, I look at the office and I think there are some areas that we can do more in."

Pennsylvania attorney general brings local roots to her new job 01:59

And although she lived in the Philadelphia suburbs for 20 years and now lives in Harrisburg, Attorney General Henry says she has always rooted for the Pittsburgh sports teams over Philadelphia.

"Even with the threat of violence from my colleagues, I am a true Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pittsburgh Penguins, black and gold every day," Henry said. "I am a true Pittsburgh sports fan."

On issues, Henry, an experienced courtroom prosecutor, says she is following the local impact of the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.

"The water from the streams flow from Ohio into Pennsylvania. So we are going to be monitoring very closely. I can assure you that if we have the opportunity, we will hold them accountable," she said.

Henry says her office wants to hear from any Pennsylvanians who feel they may have been affected because state environmental laws will be enforced.

Henry: "If they violated Pennsylvania law and we have jurisdiction, we do."

Delano: "And by having jurisdiction meaning it harms someone in Pennsylvania?"

Henry: "Correct."

Delano: "Even though the incident occurred in Ohio?"

Henry: "Correct."

Delano: "Do you know yet whether people have been harmed in Pennsylvania?"

Henry: "It's really too early for me to comment on the specifics on that, but I can assure you we are watching that very closely."

Another issue Henry cares deeply about is child abuse. An earlier charge last fall against four Jehovah's Witnesses for abusing children in their congregation led to charges against five more last week in Allegheny, Beaver, and Butler counties.

"These were victims who at a very, very young age were sexually abused and taken advantage of, and we will be their voices," she said. "We invite them to come forward. We know it takes a tremendous amount of courage, but pick up the phone and we will be there."

Henry praised members of the congregation for stepping forward and says some faith leaders are enablers that could lead to further prosecutions.

On another issue, the Taylor Swift ticket fiasco, the new attorney general says her office is still keeping an eye on Ticketmaster and invites consumer feedback on any new issues.

"Look, consumers deserve the right to have access to these tickets they were promised, whether it's the Taylor Swift show or another show," Henry said. "And we're going to continue, our consumer protection section is going to continue to look at that."

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