Progressive Summit Debate: Hanger Stakes Claim On Left

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Six of the seven candidates for governor gathered on the stage at the Harrisburg Hilton in a forum hosted by the Keystone Progress Progressive Summit.

Former DEP Secretaries John Hanger and Katie McGinty, State Treasurer Rob McCord, Rep. Allyson Schwartz, former Revenue Secretary Tom Wolf and Lebanon County Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz fielded leading questions from Keystone Progress chairwoman Eileen Connolly for two hours this evening.

The room was well-suited to Hanger, arguably the most progressive candidate in the race. He boldly supported a single-payer health insurance system, promoted the full legalization and taxation of marijuana, touted a 21 point plan for the fracking industry and advocated his Jobs not Jails platform.

He also staked out his claim as one of the original progressives in the race.

“I was for campaign finance reform before it was cool,” he quipped as the other candidates promoted their support for campaign finance reform.

McGinty also strongly expressed her disdain for the current system of campaign finance.

“I’m spending probably 80% of my time on fundraising and I feel 0% good about that. And we need to change that,” she said.

This topic could have been touchy for Wolf, but he handled it well, saying that money was his only advantage in getting his message out.

“I’m playing by the rules of the game as it exists now, but if I were governor I would do everything in my power to change those rules.”

Besides Hanger, there wasn’t much distinction amongst the policy platforms of the candidates, but Schwartz provided a strong series of substantive answers based on her experience in the State Senate and in Congress.

“I’m the only one who actually spent many many hours making sure we passed the ACA,” she said, and talked about her work with crafting and passing CHIP before it became the model for the Clinton administration.

“It is unwise and unconscionable to leave people without care,” she said when discussing the lack of Medicaid expansion in PA. “We will get health care to all Pennsylvanians and we will be leaders for how we do this.”

She also reiterated a critique from an earlier fundraising email.

“I will say that it is a challenge to raise money as one of the not-self-funders in this race,” she said, a not-so-thinly-veiled shot at Wolf and McCord who have each donated more than $1 million to their campaign, with Wolf donating $10 million.

Despite his newly acquired front-runner status, Wolf wasn’t the target of many shots but McCord did make a passing reference to his TV ads.

McCord also revealed his proposal for minimum wage: an increase to $10.70 per hour in his first year in office. Litz countered with the proposal that it would bankrupt small businesses and McCord re-rebutted with the importance of lifting working families, particularly women, out of poverty.

On the issues, none of the candidates advocated a full moratorium on drilling, all supported a Medicaid expansion and state expansion, each supported “common sense” gun regulations and we learned that Litz was an avid hunter in her youth.

Education was a frequent topic, though specifics weren’t seriously addressed. Every candidate advocated for the reform of charter schools, though their responses came after a seriously leading question that began with, “Cyber charter schools are an abject failures… ”

McGinty and McCord credited their personal successes to the public school system and included that in their motivations in running for office.

Wolf’s personal story was a hit, per usual, and even Hanger complimented him on the type of company he ran that shared profits with employees and offered living wages and benefits.

During the event, ballots were passed around for a straw poll in the governor’s race, the results of which would be revealed tomorrow during the conference.

Former Auditor General and newest entry to the gubernatorial field Jack Wagner was not present.

The PA GOP wasted no time slamming the Dems, with a press release coming just minutes after closing statements tonight.

“Tonight, the Democratic gubernatorial candidates tried to peddle unaffordable, big government solutions to Pennsylvanians,” PA GOP Chairman Rob Gleason said. “For months, these Democratic candidates have tried to convince taxpayers that the only solution for our government’s problems is more government, more taxes, and more ObamaCare. No wonder the Pennsylvania Democratic Party refused to support this lackluster group of candidates this year.

21 Responses

  1. Allyson Schwartz did not craft CHIP. Allen Kukovich did, and he started on it years before Schwartz was even elected to the Pennsylvania Senate. Schwartz helped get it passed, along with many others, but Allen Kukovich was the true originator of the CHIP program.

  2. “Conventional Wisdom had Schwartz coronated” Umm… not really. Her campaign just pretended to coronate her.

    The poll, while great for Wolf, is still preliminary because the other candidates haven’t made it on the air with sustained ads. So, Wolf is benefiting from his unchallenged media exposure (as well as great personal story).

    I still think Schwartz comes in 3rd.

  3. Mr. Robbie’s observations are a good example of the “appeal to authority” fallacy. As one of the self-proclaimed experts, he focuses on conventional wisdom and past trends as proof of what will be, and fails to account for the possibility of trends changing direction and new dynamics entering the play. Conventional Wisdom is so often wrong because it is so often an expression of its own certainty about things. Conventional Wisdom had Schwartz coronated and now she’s sining faster than than the Lusitania. Conventional Wisdom had McCord as the main challenger to Schwartz and now the polls show him no stronger than Hanger or McGinty. Maybe the trend lines are changing.

  4. John Hanger’s winning the straw poll is impressive. He clearly received the most applause throughout the forum. Hanger supports single payer! Several others really danced around this first question asked of the candidates!! Hanger’s leadership on marijuana reform has already caused one or more of the candidates who previously said NO to medical marijuana to join in supporting it, as well as they now say they support decriminalization. Hanger’s leadership on multiple progressive issues definitely sets him apart from the crowd. We need a leader, not a follower. John Hanger is a breath of fresh air. He delivers details, not platitudes, and that is also an important contribution to this campaign.

  5. I was impressed with Hangar! Although he is still a long shot, I can see him doing well in polls and Election Day. I think his ceiling is now third. I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up Wolf, McCord, Hangar, Scwartz, McGinty,!

    Is Schwartz’s camp concerned with this ? Her progreesive base has eroded. Her campaign needs a shot in the arm.

  6. Robbie-
    I didn’t indicate a “tier”. I just pointed out why Hanger won the poll and why shouldn’t act so dismissively of the hundreds of people who were there. They are the front lines of the progressive movement in PA. They are fighting the battles the mainstream candidates are too afraid to agree with (until an issue’s poll numbers cross 50%, then they were always “for it”).

    On gun control, candidates mostly fall all over themselves to express their support 2nd Amendment before giving a half-assed answer. Here is the answer they SHOULD be giving:

    “I support the 2nd Amendment, … and if we need a well armed militia … we’ll let the NRA know. Until then, the Army, Navy, Air Force will handle the job.”.

    As for hunting: “Here’s a 10-inch knife. There’s a deer. Have at it.”

    As for licensing and background checks:
    First question on the form:
    How many bullets should a gun have?
    a) 1
    b) 6
    c) 10
    d) 30
    e) more than 30

    Anyone who answers more than 6 doesn’t get a gun.

  7. @David Diano

    I happen to agree with almost all of those progressive principles. I have been intimately involved in Pennsylvania Democratic politics on a professional level (not just as a casual observer or as a hobby) for nearly three decades. My point is that a straw poll at the Progressive Summit means almost nothing.

    Not one person I know who has serious experience as a political professional or an analyst thinks John Hanger is a first-tier candidate. For many months, all of them have seen four first-tier candidates, and that hasn’t changed. Hanger winning the Democratic primary would be the biggest shock in Pennsylvania political results during at least the past 30 years. That’s just the way it is. Anybody who cites Bill de Blasio’s successful campaign for Mayor of New York CIty or a similar “upset” in a campaign clearly does not know much about the unique dynamics of NYC politics or the difference between other states/cities/districts and Pennsylvania.

  8. Robbie-
    “Far more Democratic voters will see one TV ad, any TV ad, on any network during prime-time than the combined number who attended, participated in, and viewed the Progressive Summit and its debate.”

    Well, could be said pretty much for any commercial and any room full of people. I don’t know what the viewership of PCN is, where the debate was broadcast live.

    The progressive movement represents the core values of the Democratic party (or where the party is heading and has to catch up). Issues like protecting the environment, womens’ access to health care, gay marriage, cleaner energy, etc. have been pushed by the progressives and progress has been made.

    Hanger’s success in the poll is due to his not only his stance on core progressive issue but his unequivocal answers. On single payer, the other candidates talked about various incremental improvements and Medicare and danced around. John came out for single payer: no ifs ands or buts.

    This pattern was true for several issues, even some where John had the additional “street-cred” of having authored a policy years earlier.

    So, John was able to tell them want they wanted to hear, and didn’t have to pander to do it, and the people there knew it, respected it and voted it.

    The questions for Hanger’s chances in the Primary are:
    1) Despite his lack of money for massive ads, will enough voters be aware of him and his progressive stance? (Final gov debates will be more widely seen, and there are newspaper endorsements as well.)

    2) What is the percentage of progressive voters in the Dem Primary “base” that turns out in May? The 1 million expected voters will represent about 1/3 of the registered, “active” Dems.

    3) What percentage of progressive voters that will MISTAKENLY think that John can’t beat Corbett because of the current funding levels?
    I point this out because, if/when John winds up winning, he will have donors begging to give him money.

    If these three numbers are high enough, among the concentration of liberal Dem primary, then John could cross the threshold to victory.

    Other than the approx 1 million voter turnout number.

  9. Let me try to help people understand perspective. Hanger finished first in the Progressive Summit straw poll, but probably will finish 5th or 6th in the Democratic primary. Participants in the Progressive Summit straw poll are those who are at the most liberal end of the spectrum. In fact, many of the participants are registered members of the Green Party or otherwise unable to vote in the Democratic primary. The Progressive Summit straw poll is to the Pennsylvania Democratic primary as the Ames Straw Poll is to the Iowa Caucus. Michelle Bachmann won the Ames Straw Poll for the 2012 nomination, and how did her campaign fare?

    Far more Democratic voters will see one TV ad, any TV ad, on any network during prime-time than the combined number who attended, participated in, and viewed the Progressive Summit and its debate. That isn’t my opinion, it is fact (if you don’t believe me, learn more about GRPs). Hanger is a smart guy and he knows that, but he takes what he can get. Make no mistake, Hanger would be on TV in a heartbeat if he could afford it.

  10. If we elect hanger and legalize marijuana we will amass 2 billion dollars in just 4 years! That’s from taxing it and savings from not arresting and incarcerating ppl for marijuana possession. Hanger has my vote for sure. He can win on that platform but only if other like minded ppl actually vote May 20th! So make sure you are registered to vote by 4/21! 🙂

  11. “The upside of a Corbett win is it give Kane a pretty sure shot for 2018 and guarantees a Dem in the Governor’s mansion for the next re-districting for 2021.” ?? WTF ????

    There is NO upside to 4 more years of Corbett.

    But, Corbett will not win. Anthony Weiner has a better chance of being Gov of NY.

    The only question is which of the Dem candidates will have the PRIVILEGE of kicking Corbett out of the gov mansion.

  12. The other cringe-worthy moment was Schwartz stating she was proud to open a women’s health clinic that performed abortions. I am pro-choice but that won’t play well outside SE PA and showed a real Philly-centric point of view. Schwartz doesn’t understand the rest of PA and if she is the nominee I am not confident she can beat Corbett. The upside of a Corbett win is it give Kane a pretty sure shot for 2018 and guarantees a Dem in the Governor’s mansion for the next re-districting for 2021.

  13. According to @frank and @jjcnpa, a person should be damned if he is successful, treats his workers well, and spends his money to run for office in an effort to make Pennsylvania better rather than spend it on frivolous and extravagant things?

    I would be willing to bet that if @frank’s preferred candidate (Congresswoman Schwartz) or @jjcnpa’s preferred candidate (I can’t remember if it is Treasurer McCord or Congresswoman Schwartz) had more money to spend than anybody else, @frank and @jjcnpa would be praising the preferred candidate and damning others.

    By the way @frank and @jjcnpa, did you know Congresswoman Schwartz raised thousands of $ into her federal PACs from financial institutions AFTER she announced publicly that she (they do not contribute to candidates for Governor due to SEC and MSRB rules) and that Treasurer McCord received a six-figure contribution from the former head of Sallie Mae (with whom he did many millions of $ in business as Treasurer)? I’m not saying any of those actions are illegal, but stop claiming purity and damning others because you support somebody else.

    But I’m not surprised by the comments of @frank and @jjcnpa. We tend to believe what we want to believe, whether consistent, accurate, or not. Wake me when they damn the candidate(s) they support and praise those they oppose. Otherwise, none of it is revelation.

  14. Frank
    Schwartz was trying to “buy” the election last summer when she had biggest cash on hand, before McCord announced.

    The fundraising problem that concerns voters is the big donors who buy access to the canva candidates with their big checks, and the ordinary voters get left out and are unheard.

    Self-funded candidates aren’t beholden to anyone. So, the questios are: are they the “real deal” and what are they trying to accomplish?

    The Koch brothers are clearly buying elections and have an anti-progressive agenda. Wolf seems to have all the right values and, if elected, wouldn’t be picking his cabinet based on rewarding donors and special interests.

  15. let me see if this is right put 10 million of your own money in to run then if you get elected call for campaign finance reform.i cant believe mccord schwartz and the others are letting wolf have a free ride its very easy to see he is trying to buy this election and so far its working if the public sees the other candidates praise wolf and they will see no reason not to vote for him.

  16. I’m pretty sure the PA GOP chairman wrote his “response” before the debate was even held.

    I think the candidates overall did well, except when it came to the topic of ballot access reform to reduce the draconian burden on independent and third party candidates. Hanger was the only one who had the correct answer: Yes, there needs to be reform to allow candidates access. McGinty did express some sympathy, but her answer didn’t distinguish itself from the rest of the field, who all supported continuing the two-party duopoly.

    These Gov candidates need 2,000 signatures to get on the ballot. A third party candidate needs about 25 times as many.

    I “got into it” a little with McCord after the debate. (not like a Saidel incident, though). McCord passionately credits (ie blames) Ralph Nader for Gore’s loss and the Bush disaster that resulted. My counter was that Gore lost it himself because:
    1) he ran a poor campaign
    2) he distanced himself from Clinton (and the successes)
    3) Gore lost his own state of Tennessee
    4) The Florida butterfly ballot

    I also pointed out that Nader’s work on car and consumer safety has saved a lot of lives over the years and he deserved a change to run for office.

    What I failed to ask was how Rob would feel about it if a tea-party candidate ran and took away GOP votes and cost the Republicans an election. (Next time! 🙂 )

    Rob did give me a fair hearing of my views, and gave me honest feedback. He is open to further discussions on the subject. I’m hoping that with the right argument and evidence of the inherent unfairness of the current system, that Rob can overcome his passion about Bush/Gore and do the right thing.

  17. I don’t understand why anyone didn’t challenge Wolf on spending a fortune. he basically said “I hate to spend this fortune but when I am Governor I will change the rules so nobody has to spend this fortune” like he was a martyr. This is the people’s party and Wolf should be challenged on spending a fortune to buy the office. This fact should have been brought up at a Progressive forum. The other candidates missed a big pportunity.

    Hangar is not surging. he will finish 5th. He was not very articulate. I thought McCord had a solid performance but the winner was Wolf because he went completely unchallenged.

  18. I just watched this debate. Hanger has positioned himself firmly as the progressive candidate, Tom Wolf positioned himself as the most electable and best general election candidate,Mccord looked despite, Allison looked likea 2nd tier candidate and Litz looked lost as always. Tom Wolf handled himself as the leading candidate and Hanger looked as the surging candidate. The winner will end up between those 2.

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