Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett isn't up for re-election until 2014, but one Democrat is already raising money to run against him.

 

John Hanger, former head of the state's Department of Environmental Protection and a former commissioner of the state Public Utility Commission, says he's holding a fundraiser in December as he considers a run for governor.

 

Hanger has never run for public office and isn't blessed with money or name recognition. But he says he's got something else.

"I'm ready to be governor," Hanger said in an interview. "I've spent 28 years touring the state. I've held two statewide offices for a total of seven and a half years. I know the people, I know the challenges, I know the opportunities."

Hanger at times battled with environmental activists over gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale, but he believes he has a strong record as a consumer advocate and guardian of natural resources.

Former Gov. Ed Rendell, who appointed Hanger to head the DEP, likes him.

"John would make a fine governor," Rendell said in a telephone interview. "He's strong, he's decisive, he's energetic."

That's not a political endorsement. Rendell said he expects many Democrats interested in the governor's office will be friends of his. Rendell said it will be an uphill climb for most of them.

"The question for John, and for almost all of the candidates," Rendell said, "is whether they can raise enough money to be viable, and not just in the primary, but in the general election against an incumbent governor who, my guess is, will have $25 million or more for his re-election effort."

Hanger said he understands he'll need to raise millions.

"My campaign is all about winning. It's not a symbolic effort," Hanger said. "And if I do this, I'm going to be working on this campaign full time. I have a network of friends and allies that I've built over 28 years, and I can offer those folks a compelling candidacy."

Candidates for governor circulate nominating petitions a year from January, so it's not too early to plan a campaign.

Hanger, as a dark horse, has at least claimed the advantage of an early start.

Much will depend on whether some better-known, better-funded Democrats, such as state treasurer Rob McCord, think Corbett is vulnerable enough to jump into the race.

Hanger will decide whether to announce his candidacy after the December fundraiser.