John Hanger, who was the Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection from September 2008 to January 2011 under former Democrat Governor Ed Rendell, made public his intentions to run for Governor of Pennsylvania in 2014. Hanger decided to throw his hat in the ring as a contender for Governor well in advance to get his name out there as early as possible to set himself apart from the rest of the competition. While he is the first Democrat to announce his candidacy, Hanger will certainly not be the last. News reports indicate that at least two other prominent businessmen, Tom Wolf from York and Tom Knox from Philadelphia, are considering running for governor as have other notable individuals. With the Democratic primaries not until May 2014, Hanger has an advantage over other candidates who may run on the ticket with a jump start to center his campaign outreach efforts on target voters who are disillusioned with current Governor Tom Corbett. Having a slight leg up on future competition is not all that Hanger has to his advantage. Having served in a position of authority as Secretary for DEP under the Rendell administration, Hanger has experience as the chief executive in charge of a very large agency. While most of his experience has been centered around growing green issues and the environment, the 55 year-old Derry Township resident, was formerlly a commissioner of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and also a past president of PennFuture, an advocacy group for the environment. Currently, he works as an attorney for Eckert Seamens in Harrisburg.
As a leading expert in environment, gas drilling and energy issues, Hanger was portrayed in the movie Gasland as someone who did not care about advancements in the natural gas industry when in fact it was quite the opposite. While Hanger supported natural gas drilling especially with Marcellus Shale, his focus was on safety and responsibility standards. It was his support of the natural gas drilling that pitted him against environmentalists who wanted to see the drilling cease. While Secretary for DEP, Hanger allowed for an increase in permit fees and used those funds to support the hiring of additional inspectors. It was his policies that led to improvements in well-casing and also led to tightening the flow of fluids dumped into Pennsylvania rivers and steams. According to reports on Penn Live, Hanger would impose taxes on natural drilling that Governor Corbett is reluctant to implement.
Hanger is quick to distance himself from Governor Corbett in many ways stating that he should he be elected some of his goals are to stimulate economic growth through job creation by reversing Corbett’s $1 billion education cuts that led to 19,000 layoffs, revitalize the economy by supporting renewable and alternative energy sources, protect the environment through natural gas drilling, ensure that energy produced is clean and efficient, supports the right for all Pennsylvanis to vote and supports citizens rights and freedom of privacy specifically supporting the legalization of medical marijuana and same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania. In many ways Hanger’s policies are more in tune with Libertarian positions and commentators noted that his positions as a moderate are attractive for those voters who are disillusioned with the current Republican governor and the former governor, who was a Democrat from Philadelphia. Nevertheless, unless he decides to change his political party affiliation, Hanger would run on the Democrat party ticket. As a central Pennsylvania native living and working in the Harrisburg area, Hanger has the advantage of being considered an insider and his experience in government gives him the upper-hand other contenders may not have. Still, it is too early in the political race to predict outcome results. Coming off to a strong start, the real test will come in spring 2014 at the primary. Should Hanger decide to stick with his campaign until then, he may very well be the challenger facing Corbett in November 2014.