Essential Pittsburgh
4:00 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

Wagner: Campaign Finance Reform, Education Funding Top Priorities

Gubernatorial candidate Jack Wagner
Gubernatorial candidate Jack Wagner
Credit Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

After an unsuccessful run for mayor of Pittsburgh, former Pennsylvania auditor general Jack Wagner has thrown his hat into the gubernatorial ring.

Currently, he is the only candidate from Western Pennsylvania seeking the Democratic nomination, but he said he plans to focus his campaign on the entire state.

He’s late to the race and behind in fundraising. He acknowledged he’s up against candidates with much more personal wealth than he has, but said he intends to work hard on fundraising. He went on to say that if elected, one of his priorities would be campaign finance reform.

“Should a candidate be able to put, based on their personal wealth, $1 million, $2 million, $10 million into a campaign? I’m not so sure that’s the right way to elect people in Pennsylvania, so I believe that issue will become more of an issue as the campaign proceeds,” Wagner said.

Wagner said there is something structurally wrong with a government when unlimited sums of money can come from any direction be it from an individual or other sources.

Incumbent Tom Corbett is considered one the most vulnerable in the nation, but Wagner is cautious in his approach to unseating the Republican governor.

“We all know that an incumbent governor in the history of Pennsylvania has never lost since the constitution was changed approximately 50 years ago,” Wagner said. “It is no easy task to beat an incumbent governor whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat and I believe that to be the case with Tom Corbett, even though his polling numbers are down.”

Wagner said his theme going forward is “break the cycle,” meaning break the cycle of an incumbent governor.

On education, Wagner said if elected he would increase funding at all levels, starting at early childhood.

“Pennsylvania has a school dropout rate that has been very high for a very long time,” he said. “I think there’s a direct correlation to children not being prepared for school and children dropping out of school.”

When asked about fracking, Wagner said he does support it, but he added it must be done safely.

“The top priority of the commonwealth has to be to protect our environment, our land, our waterways,” said Wagner. “The big issue related to fracking is precisely that, it’s protecting our waterways. We have 80,000 miles of rivers and streams in Pennsylvania, 5,000 of those 80,000 are polluted.”

Wagner said he’d also like to see more Pennsylvanians with jobs in the energy industry, versus people from Texas and Oklahoma.

Wagner also said he supports legalizing marijuana only for medical use, he supports legalizing same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania and is opposed to the privatization of the state liquor system.