John Hanger, a Democrat and former secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection, is the first to announce he’ll seek the Democratic nomination for governor.
At an event in Harrisburg, he touted his record of breaking up the electric utilities' monopoly in Pennsylvania in the 1990s and leading the charge to create a renewable energy industry in the commonwealth.
Topping his platform is education -- Hanger said he would restore funding levels to where they were before Gov. Corbett oversaw one billion dollars in cuts, which Corbett has chalked up to disappeared federal stimulus funding. Hanger said those cuts were a choice, and not necessary, though he declined to point out where he would find funding to restore the department to its pre-2011 levels.
“Tutoring is being ended,” said Hanger. “Preschool classes or kindergarten classes are being curtailed and certainly the layoffs of teachers aren’t making our schools better.”
A state GOP statement issued Wednesday said Hanger espouses “runaway government spending” policies.
Hanger said he supports reforms to make charter schools more transparent and accountable, and is against vouchers. He also said, if elected, he would tax the natural gas industry -– a knock on the drilling impact fee now in place, which he called a “blooper” the state can still correct.
“Pennsylvania is an energy powerhouse though it’s an energy powerhouse that Governor Corbett is mismanaging,” Hanger said, adding that he would expand the state’s renewable energy industry, including wind farms.
A representative of Stonewall Democrats was among the speakers introducing Hanger, who says he supports legalizing gay marriage. He gave cursory mention to other social issues in his platform, which includes legalizing medical marijuana and upholding abortion rights.
The election for governor is still two years away, but a few political analysts said Hanger’s early announcement may be prudent, since he has rather low name recognition statewide and could use a head start in fundraising.
Governor Corbett has not officially declared his intentions to seek a second term, but he has hinted that he won’t break the tradition of governors running for re-election.
Hanger made his announcement at events in Philadelphia and Harrisburg on Wednesday. He’s planning another campaign event in Pittsburgh Thursday.