Last updated: February 19. 2013 7:37PM - 170 Views

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HARRISBURG — Former state environmental protection chief John Hanger on Wednesday became the first declared candidate for governor in an election nearly two years away, vowing to boost spending for education and to tax natural-gas production.


Hanger announced his candidacy for the 2014 Democratic nomination at Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market and planned to ride in a school bus to the Capitol for a similar news conference. He also planned to visit Pittsburgh today.


The 55-year-old Hanger touted his record as a state utility regulator and the Rendell administration's secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection.


He laced his speech with attacks on Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, who plans to seek re-election.


Tom Corbett's politics are damaging Pennsylvania's schools, our economy and our future, he said in prepared remarks. The governor is sincere in his beliefs, but he must be a one-term governor for the good of the commonwealth.


Hanger vowed to make education the top priority for state funding and to end Pennsylvania's status as the only major natural gas-producing state that does not tax production, but warned that gas alone will never create prosperity for the state.


I will develop all our energy resources, including wind, solar and energy efficiency, he said. Saving energy remains the cheapest and cleanest energy resource available.


Hanger said he favors legalizing gay marriage and the use of marijuana for medical purposes.


He said he also supports abortion rights and passage of a state gay-rights law banning discrimination in matters such as housing and employment.


While Hanger is the first declared Democratic candidate, he is likely to face competition in the May 2014 primary.


Businessmen Tom Wolf, of York, and Tom Knox, of Philadelphia, have signaled strong interest in running.


Other prospective candidates have refused to rule out campaigns.


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