Exclusive: Former DEP Hanger Looking to Challenge Corbett
If a person’s command of campaign messaging is a good barometer for interest in running for office, then John Hanger is all but in the 2014 race for Governor.
“I’m seriously looking at running for Governor,” Hanger told PoliticsPA. “I’m engaged in a number of important meetings in the next 10 days. If they go well, I think I’ll have something definitive to say by the end of November or early December.”
The former Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection under Governor Ed Rendell, Hanger offered incisive criticism of Gov. Tom Corbett’s record during a conversation with PoliticsPA Thursday.
“We were 1.6 percent below the national [unemployment] rate in May 2011. All of the budgets go into effect, and it’s been devastating,” Hanger said. “We’ve gone from leading the nation in job creation to bringing up the rear, all in the space of two years of the mistakes of Tom Corbett.”
Hanger, 55, served as the Commissioner of Pennsylvania’s Public Utilities Commission during the Ridge administration from 1993 to 1998. In 2008, he took the helm of DEP, the state’s environmental watchdog agency. He lives in Hershey with his family.
He had practice on the campaign trail this year, when he spoke as a surrogate for President Obama on several occasions.
PoliticsPA is seeking comment from Corbett’s campaign.
Hanger said he’s strongly considering a run, and sounded like a man eager to jump in. He said he wants to have a strong policy platform and put together a campaign team.
“I’m not interested in running a symbolic campaign,” he said.
He noted he’d stay out if either Rendell or U.S. Senator Bob Casey decided to get in the race – but said he’s spoken to both and doesn’t think either will run.
Pa. Treasurer Rob McCord is widely considered to be a likely candidate, and former U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak has also been floated as a possibility – in addition to a dozen other Democrats.
As the state’s former top environmental watchdog, he’s in a somewhat tenuous position in the Marcellus debate. As the founding President of environmental group PennFuture from 1998 to 2008, he was viewed with suspicion by the gas drilling industry on his nomination to DEP Secretary.
However, his tenure there and his support for drilling led some activists – notably Josh Fox in the film ‘Gasland’ – to question his ecological credentials.
Asked about Corbett’s handling of drilling, Hanger didn’t talk about regulations or oversight. Instead, he criticized the Governor for not doing enough to capitalize on Marcellus shale.
“Despite a falling national unemployment rate and a global energy bonanza, Tom Corbett produced rising unemployment. It’s jaw-dropping,” Hanger said.
He added that he would be a strong advocate for renewable energy.