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Hanger’s Wonkishness on Display in 2014 Gov Kickoff

John Hanger

Harrisburg — Democrats are salivating at the prospect of making Tom Corbett a one-term Governor. Today, former Pa. Dept. of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger became the first official candidate in the race.

In a wonky, 25-minute speech, Hanger lambasted Corbett’s record on education and job creation and emphasized his experience with energy policy.

“Governor Corbett’s education policies have killed 19,000 education jobs directly,” he said. “And make no mistake about it. Governor Corbett’s 2011/2012 education cut of $1 billion was a choice. It was not a matter of necessity. He wanted to make those education cuts because he actually doesn’t like education.”

An expert on energy policy, he said Corbett has squandered the opportunity of the Marcellus shale and voiced his support for a higher tax.

“I understand gas drilling has produced jobs in the state. I understand that gas drilling has produced important new energy resources, has driven down prices and saved consumers money. But I also understand that gas drilling is industrial activity and it must be strongly regulated and it must be reasonably taxed,” he said.

Pa. Republican Party spokeswoman Valerie Caras said, essentially, bring it on.

“We look forward to having a discussion about Governor Tom Corbett’s pro-jobs, pro-growth record that has helped to create over 100,000 private sector jobs, increased the state portion of education spending to its highest levels, created an internationally-recognized energy sector boom and has balanced two on-time budgets with reforms and no new taxes,” she said.

“The Corbett record of responsibility and success is a stark contrast from the broken, bloated and unsustainable state government that tax-and-spend politicians like Ed Rendell and John Hanger helped to create.”

Rendell left office with approval numbers in the dumps, and Hanger’s ties to the former Gov would be easy fodder for Republicans.

And lest anyone confuse Hanger with a Bob Casey-style moderate Democrat, have no fear. He directly said that he would push for same sex marriage, address climate change, is pro-choice, and wants to legalize medical marijuana.

He is a first-time candidate and it showed at times. His stump speech and his program (including 3 introductory speakers) went for nearly an hour, after several TV cameras had pulled away. All relied heavily on notes. His campaign placards lacked any disclaimer or union bug.

Hanger spent several minutes wading through the details of alternative energy standards, electricity de-monopolization and land preservation.

But his years in public office showed, too. His policy knowledge is clear, and he deftly handled several difficult questions about spending priorities.

His stop in Harrisburg was the second of three: one in Philadelphia in the morning, one in Pittsburgh on Thursday.

Hanger, 55, lives in Dauphin County. He presently works as special counsel at the law firm of Eckert Seamans. He joked before the event that Donald Trump had questioned the wrong Democrat. In fact he was born in Kenya, while his father worked for the British government to help with agricultural development.

He’s the first Democrat to jump into the race, but he’s unlikely to be the last. State Treasurer Rob McCord is seriously considering a run for the office and is considered by many to be on Democrats’ top tier list. Also on the top of the list is former U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak.

Hanger passed up an opportunity to ding a potential rival.

“I greatly respect Roc McCord. He’s been a successful treasurer,” Hanger responded when asked.

Hanger said he knows he needs a head start on the race because fundraising will be such an important element. His campaign is presently run by volunteers rather than paid staff – including Jan Jarrett, Hanger’s successor as leader of the PennFuture advocacy group.

Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial primary is May 20, 2014. That’s 17 months and 22 days from Wednesday. The general election is more than 23 months away.

“Look, the Governor himself knows he’s vulnerable. He’s a smart man,” Hanger said. “But he’s gonna be well-funded. It’s going to take a very significant campaign to beat him. That’s one of the reasons I’m starting early.”

Corbett’s vulnerability may not be a given, or at least it may not be enough to end Pa.’s long practice of electing Democrats and Republicans to alternating 8 year terms. Though his job approval numbers are among the lower tier of governors in the country, they’re not far off from Ed Rendell’s in 2004 or Tom Ridge’s in 1996. Both men were handily re-elected.

One potential X-factor? The Jerry Sandusky case. Hanger also voiced for another soon-to-be Pa. row officer: Kathleen Kane.

“I fully support attorney general-elect Kane’s commitment to do a full review of the Sandusky case. Like many Pennsylvanians I have a lot of questions and I look forward to reading her report,” he said at the conclusion of his remarks.

6 Responses

  1. Gibson was listening to another John Hanger. The one I heard in Philly and Harrisburg yesterday gave a vibrant, diverse and enthusiastic critic of the failed Corbett administration. I’ve known John for a while now. He never will be an entertainer or comedian. I’m glad to say I’ve never seen him aspire to be so.

    In the past, he and I have disagreed on issues. I believe we still do. Without exception though, John will respectfully engage any one of any point of view. From Josh Fox on Gasland to the time he met a friend of mine to explain solar energy in PA, he really listens and respectfully responds to all dissent. That will be a welcome change from the arrogance and dismissiveness the Corbett admin seems to show everyone who can’t give ’em a couple million bucks.

    So Gibson finds John a little wonky? So what? I know John comes to a debate fully-loaded. You may score points in a debate with him, but pack a lunch to do so. I am starving for a leader who has a technical clue. He made valid points yesterday that Gov Corbett is hard pressed to refute, and I don’t expect him to try. That’s why I’m endorsing John Hanger for Gov.

    For coverage, check my Twitter Feed from both announcements: @stevenwtodd

  2. I don’t think John Hanger has any intention of actually becoming Governor. He wants to increase his visibility for a possible position with the Dept. of Energy or FERC or whatever the newly reelected Obama administration will give him. He’ll likely build a platform that will be very similar with the administration in D.C. while using the “campaign” to increase his visibility and show how viable he would be in a Federal position. Donate if you want for that, not if you think he’ll actually win an election. Someone like McCord would annihilate him in a primary debate.
    If you really look at the effects of PA electric deregulation, the alternative energy portfolio standard, his complacency as Rendell gutted his agency while simultaneously doleing out millions of agency dollars to unproven energy companies with fundamentally flawed business plans, and turning Penn Future from a once reasonably respected environmental advocacy group into a partisan political shill organization, you’ll see he’s not half the qualified leader he thinks he is.

  3. I guess a wonk might be a nice change from the ideologue whose only policies revolve around giving the gas and coal companies free run of the state without returning anything to it. I was stunned to discover that Pennsylvania is the 3rd largest energy producer in the US, behind Texas and Wyoming (which puts our current governor on common ground with Bush and Chaney, come to think of it), and those states have no income tax, due in part to the fact that those “oil/gas-friendly” states tax the heck out of the drillers. PA doesn’t and won’t under the current administration. John Hanger promises to be a governor that will put our priorities right. I think he’s a fresh face, who’s done a lot of good work in his career, and he’s worth a long hard looksee.

  4. Pennsylvania is the third largest energy producer in the United States and our unemployment rate is higher than the national average. This fact is significant because it clearly shows that the Commonwealth and it’s citizens are not benefiting enough from the enormous natural wealth that Pennsylvanian’s are blessed with.

    The US government and the state of Pennsylvania have historically been handicapped by leaders that did not understand energy and we as a nation still do not have a coherent national energy policy.

    Having a smart and practical leader like John Hanger with decades of on the job experience creating and managing effective policy is essential to growing our economy.

    When has it ever been a benefit to have a dumb leader that was not an expert on policy? Dumb leaders led to the US government not undersanding how a company like Enron could exploit and manipulate the energy market which almost crippled the energy industry and contributed to rolling blackouts across our nation.

    Dumb leaders don’t believe in climate change and do not plan for the next Hurricane or environmental disaster that creates billions of dollars in losses and lost productivity.

    This election has proven that the American people are smart enough to understand their economic interests and vote accordingly despite being handicapped by the nasty politics of gerrymandering, voter suppression, and Super Pac money.

    John Hanger will win the election once the people of Pennsylvania see how his practical policies will increase employment, grow Pennsylvania business, and smartly take advantage of our natural resources to lower energy costs and increase profitability for business.

    As a small business owner, I want a smart Governor just like I want a smart accountant and lawyer to help increase my profitability and safeguard my business from potential risk.

    Isn’t the business of government to protect it’s citizens and to enhance their lives? If you don’t believe me perhaps you would believe Thomas Jefferson:

    In 1801 Thomas Jefferson, in his First Inaugural Address, said:

    “With all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow citizens – a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it had earned.” (Works 8:3)

    John Hanger is not a one trick pony, he is a wise leader that is practical and cares deeply about growing business in Pennsylvania and making the lives of all Pennsylvania better through practical solutions based on wisdom, and expert counsel.

  5. Hanger is a “nice guy” based on you meeting him one time? That’s interesting. I know several people who worked for DEP for two years while he was Secretary, and all of them tell me he is an awful person and terrible to work for. By the way, he wasn’t Rendell’s first DEP Secretary, and wasn’t his first choice as a replacement DEP Secretary either.

    Hanger is running for Governor of Pennsylvania, not Governor of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Hanger is a one-trick pony, he knows about energy and environmental issues, but nothing else. He said he knows a lot about other issues too, including education, because he has read a lot.

    A guy who has no experience with anything beyond energy/environmental issues, no name ID, and cannot raise money is running for Governor, dealing with a plethora of policy areas, in a huge and very expensive state.

    OK buddy, keep reading. I hope his ego isn’t too fragile, because almost nobody outside of a few environmental issue advocates will consider him a serious candidate.

  6. John is a nice guy. I met him once. But he’s not the guy to take on Corbett. Maybe he’s running to raise his name ID for a run for Treasurer in 2016?

  • Understanding that basic education funding should/will be first, what should be the next highest priority for the General Assembly?

    • Raising The Minimum Wage (25%)
    • Legalizing Adult-Use Marijuana (24%)
    • None of the above. Something Else. (20%)
    • Economic Development (14%)
    • Higher Education (8%)
    • Public Transportation (8%)
    • Workforce Opportunities and Innovation (2%)

    Total Voters: 51

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