Former PA Gov Ed Rendell has said candidate John Hanger, alone among a crowded Democratic Primary field, has “been the most substantive in responding to Gov. Corbett.” At the Jan. 24 PA Assoc for Justice Gubernatorial Forum at the Harrisburg Hilton Hotel, Hanger easily proved why Rendell would voice such praise, while still studiously avoiding endorsing any candidate for Governor.
Hanger, noted that “I am running a different campaign of active people without big dollar donors.” He then explained a populist platform, fueled mainly by citizen activists, and how it can bring more voters to polls than any other candidate.
The other candidates were…well, political candidates. Each of the Democrats, of course, agreed that current PA Governor Tom Corbett must go. Each spoke in all the right sound bites for this largely Democratic audience. Alluding to everything, promising nothing and phrasing every response as to not risk ticking anyone off, none of Rob McCord, Katie McGinty, Ed Pawlowski or Tom Wolf was as prepared as Hanger. This is perhaps expected, as Hanger has by all media accounts been campaigning for the office the longest, and has had detailed positions posted on line for many months, at www.HangerForGovernor.com
Naming Pope Francis and Barack Obama as living people he admires most, and citing that both are groundbreakers, Hanger revealed a sharing of focus on social equality, with both populist leaders:
“I will lead the charge on social issues.” While all but pro-life Pawlowski said they are pro-choice and pro-marriage equality, only Hanger promised “I will veto any restriction on woman’s choice,” and to vigorously promote marriage equality.
Perhaps realizing that economic and social injustice usually start at the top, Hanger reiterated his promise to restore the executive gift ban, which all recent PA governors, except Governor Corbett, have honored.
Hanger reiterated a key point of his economic and social justice focus: stating emphatically that PA must stop prosecuting for pot possession. The other candidates have been stone silent on this issue, until very recently. While Hanger has always featured marijuana reform prominently in his plan, only now did the others specifically state their positions…and only in response to the moderator’s request to know.
Again, Hanger was not afraid of this contentious issue. Knowing how badly the status quo treats both our citizens’ health and our economy, only Hanger enumerated a well thought out and detailed plan to legalize and tax marijuana. Rob McCord promised to study the issue. Katie McGinty said she would legalize it for medicinal use only; Ed Pawloski & Tom Wolf: will decriminalize recreational use and would also legalize it for medicinal use.
Noting that states can raise the minimum wage, without awaiting the US government, and noting how desperately our working poor need it, Hanger was the only candidate to promise to work to raise PA’s to $10.10 per hour. He notes that the US “economy is growing, but the slices of the pie for all but the proverbial 1% are not.”
Hanger touched on his plan to pay for 2 years of college for all, and then loan more to those who wish to continue. He would set up a revolving fund, with manageable paycheck deductions.
In that vein, he stood alone as the only candidate who would not raise auto insurance premiums, citing the harm it would do to low wage earners. While all others correctly noted the insufficient coverage that the current PA mandated minimum provides, none had a solution when Hanger pointed out that the working poor can’t afford more, so “all this will do is make you have more uninsured on the road.” Others quickly added that there would have to be assistance for those workers, but offered no funding or specific source for such assistance.
Hanger alone notes that gas drilling will not bring wide-spread prosperity to PA, perhaps offering a welcome break from the relentless “drill, baby drill ” from both the major political parties. Unlike Corbett, neither Hanger’s energy nor jobs strategies will rest predominantly on gas drilling. He stated the gas industry will provide just 2% of our jobs, something the others appeared surprised to learn.
While all candidates promise to meet existing public worker pension obligations, only Hanger stated that pensions must not be allowed to be defaulted, adding: “the courts won’t allow it.” Some others looked like this was news to them too.
While all candidates promise to expand medicaid, only Hanger promised to fight for the single payer option. He explained that a public option is desperately needed in the mix, to ensure affordable coverage for all.