Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania governor John R. Hanger was in Somerset Thursday to promote his plan for public education, growing the economy and protecting the environment.
Hanger, an attorney with 29 years of experience in government policy work, including having served as head of the state Department of Environmental Protection, said state cuts to public education have created "a crisis" in Pennsylvania school districts.
Hanger said he would restore funding to public schools by better spending elsewhere, including eliminating funding for charter schools, which the candidate called a "get-rich-quick scheme" that is performing well below federal educational standards.
And he said he supports longer school days and school years for students, paying for it by redirecting poorly spent tax dollars.
"If you go to work a little harder at something, if you work a little longer at something, you tend to be a little better at what you're working at," Hanger said.
"I'm focused on the people," Hanger added. "That's why I'm a Democrat. I don't worry much about the wealthy. They're going to be OK no matter who the governor is. Under Gov. (Tom) Corbett, they don't have to worry about their pensions."
Public pensions came up a number of times during the gathering, which lasted nearly two hours. Hanger vowed to protect state employees' pensions, saying they are guaranteed by the Pennsylvania Constitution.
Hanger touted his experience with DEP as well, saying Pennsylvania is falling behind by producing much of the nation's natural gas supply while failing to tax it accordingly. He said Republicans have made cuts across the board and those cuts have failed to generate jobs.
"The Republican Party believes you can cut your way to prosperity," Hanger said. "One of the biggest problems with our governor is he looks at the economy and really doesn't understand any of it. It's educated, trained people who have their health who create jobs. I am for the people."
Somerset County Democratic Committee Chairwoman Shelley Glessner said she appreciated the candidate taking time to speak in Somerset County.
"He's raising issues that are near and dear to my heart," Glessner said.
Hanger was born in Nairobi, Kenya, and moved to the United States in 1970 from Ireland at the age of 12. He became a U.S. citizen in 1977 and is one of about a half-dozen Democrats running for governor. Hanger moved to Pennsylvania in 1981 and practiced law in Philadelphia. He now calls Hershey home.