WILKES-BARRE — Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Hanger stopped in the city Tuesday to campaign, having lunch at Rodano’s and shaking hands between bites of pizza.
Hangar, 56, of Hershey, said the race for the Democratic nomination is “wide open” and he offered numbers to show the key to victory.
He said the race will bring out about 1 million of Pennsylvania’s 4 million registered Democrats. He said 300,000 votes will win the May 20 primary. Hangar states he is halfway there, figuring he has 150,000 votes on his side.
But even with a strong field, Hanger said his research shows he is gaining at the rate of a half of a percent per week and with just under 100 days to go, he feels confident he can win.
“I have a message that sets me apart from the other candidates,” Hanger said. “I believe in schools, not jails; jobs, not jails; and that it’s time to legalize marijuana.”
Hanger said his jobs plan will create 382,000 well-paying jobs. He said he will make college affordable, and by legalizing marijuana, instead of costing the state about $300 million each year to prosecute offenders, $200 million will go into the treasury through taxes.
Hanger said he has raised about $1 million and is running a “people’s campaign” that features lots of shoe leather, thousands of miles on his red, white and blue campaign bus and social media.
“I’m relying on good, old-fashioned campaigning,” he said. “That’s why I’m here in Wilkes-Barre for the fourth time since I announced. And I will be back many times before May 20th.”
Hanger served two Pennsylvania governors — Bob Casey and Ed Rendell — in senior positions. He was secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection in the Rendell administration from 2008 to 2011 and had the leading role in developing and implementing new and significantly tougher gas drilling regulations. He more than doubled the size of the gas drilling oversight and enforcement force by adding 122 new inspectors.
In the Casey administration, Hanger served as commissioner of the state Public Utility Commission from 1993 to 1998. He was the architect of Pennsylvania’s successful law that ended electric generation monopolies and allowed consumers to choose their electric generation suppliers or build their own power supply. He said the program has saved state ratepayers billions of dollars since its creation.
In the years between his government service, Hanger launched and led Citizens of Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture), working to improve the environment and economy. He said his advocacy and organizational skills played a central role in passing the $625 million Growing Greener environmental stewardship program.
Hanger said most Pennsylvanians “are ready to fire Gov. Tom Corbett,” who he said has a 23 percent approval rating.
“The Democratic winner in the primary will likely be the next governor,” Hanger said. “Gov. Corbett has attacked education, causing school taxes to increase. And he has a terrible jobs record.”
Hanger said Pennsylvania saw just 18,000 new jobs created in 2013, compared to New York’s 87,000 new jobs.
“And New York has not had any shale drilling,” he said.
Hanger supports raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. He said he is against charter schools, citing their poor performance record, and he supports increasing funding for community colleges. He will tax the Marcellus shale natural gas industry as well and he supports expanding Medicaid to allow more people to have health insurance.
He also supports unions, noting the decline in membership.
“That’s why Pennsylvania paychecks are so unfair,” he said. “People are working, just not being paid fairly.”
Hanger opposes the disputed voter ID law, saying it targets groups such as college students, senior citizens and minorities and works to keep them from voting.
David M. Blauer, president/business agent for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union No. 1319, listened as Hanger outlined his platform.
“I liked everything he said,” Blauer said. “Definitely, this guy is a champion for the middle class.”