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1984 Law School graduate,
declared candidacy last year

Credit: Courtesy of John Hanger for Governor

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski’s announcement that he’ll seek the Democratic nomination for Pennsylvania governor adds another prominent name to the long list of Democrats lining up to challenge Republican Tom Corbett in 2014, several of whom have Penn connections.

1984 Law School graduate John Hanger declared his candidacy late last year, and 1989 Wharton MBA recipient Rob McCord has filed for a political action committee called “McCord for Governor,” though he has not officially declared his candidacy.

“Starting at the beginning of the year, [McCord] started hearing from a number of people from around the state asking or encouraging him to consider running,” McCord spokesperson Mark Nevins said. “The more we move around the state and talk to people, the more it becomes clear that Rob’s background and his accomplishments and his vision for the future could make a positive difference for Pennsylvania.”

Related: Corbett pushes liquor privatization, with a twist

McCord, the current Pennsylvania treasurer, will be making an announcement “in the next month or two” as to his decision about whether to run, Nevins said. Among pundits, he is widely expected to enter the race — in an interview with Keystone Politics, for example, McCord began several statements with “as governor,” and recently hired two veteran campaign advisors.

Hanger, on the other hand, has been on the trail for months, along with a strong field of candidates, including U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, businessman Tom Wolf, former secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Katie McGinty and now, Allentown’s Pawlowski.

“The early bird catches the worm,” Hanger said. “Time on the trail is very important because you can talk to a lot of people … I’m campaigning from a school bus. I’m going into small towns and going into people’s homes.”

Hanger also touted his specific policy proposals, including a plan to reform state marijuana laws and to withdraw funding from some low-performing schools.

“I’m the only candidate willing to lay it out — I will stop poor-performing charter schools,” he said. “You cannot save the public schools in Philadelphia or anywhere else in Pennsylvania if you keep funding poor-performing charter schools.”

Related: ICYMI: How the school system is falling apart

Both Hanger and McCord spokesperson Nevins agreed that funding for basic education would be a priority for a new administration. While McCord has yet to to pitch specific policy proposals to the public, he “would have a detailed education plan should he decide to run,” Nevins said.

“This governor has demonstrated through his budget that he does not value education,” Nevins said. “It’s the first thing cut instead of the first thing funded. If Rob McCord were to run for governor and were elected governor, you’d see him make education the first thing funded and not the first thing cut.”

The tone of both campaigns, as well as most others in the race, has stressed the failure of Corbett’s first three years as governor. Corbett’s popularity has plummeted over the past year — only 20 percent of Pennsylvanians surveyed in a poll released in late August say Corbett deserves to be re-elected, including only 38 percent of Republicans. Last month, The Washington Post’s “The Fix” ranked Corbett the most vulnerable incumbent governor seeking re-election in 2014.

Related: Governor Tom Corbett hesitates on Medicaid expansion

Penn Democrats President and College junior Matt Kalmans said that with such a diverse field of candidates, the organization will focus on bringing the candidates to campus to encourage students to learn about their options.

“Part of the reason we bring these candidates to campus is to feel out who we think best represents the voice of Democrats here at Penn,” Kalmans said.

Several gubernatorial candidates will be visiting campus sometime this semester, Kalmans said. Penn Dems is hosting Tom Wolf on Sept. 18.

Over that time, Penn Dems will discuss whether to issue an endorsement in the primary race. If it endorses a candidate, the organization will channel its volunteer efforts to the chosen candidate. In the meantime, it is encouraging members to get involved with whichever campaign they choose.

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