PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Gubernatorial candidate John Hanger, a Hershey Democrat, was in Pittsburgh Monday to join UPMC employees at a downtown demonstration, saying senior UPMC executives are fostering income inequality by short-changing workers.

“The economic pie is growing but the slices going to the overwhelming majority of Americans are not increasing, in fact, they’re typically declining,” Hanger told KDKA political editor Jon Delano.

A former Environmental Protection Secretary and Public Utility Commission member, Hanger calls himself a consumer advocate on energy.

“This state needs a governor that really understands energy. Frankly, Tom Corbett is clueless on energy, and it’s one of the reasons he has a terrible jobs record even at the time that we have a significant gas boom going on here,” he said.

As for skyrocketing electricity bills, Hanger says consumers must be given notice of rate hikes and, when contracts expire, “don’t put people automatically into a month-to-month contract unless they affirmatively chose to do that.”

The Democrat concedes he does not have the money of other candidates.

“I’m not trying to buy the governorship with TV ads, that’s for sure,” Hanger said.

With seven candidates running for governor, the biggest challenge is how to stand out in the crowd.

Hanger is trying to do just that by calling himself the most liberal, most progressive, candidate in the race, and embracing a controversial issue — the legalization of both medical and recreational marijuana.

“Half of all drug arrests are for marijuana. One-half,” he said.

And that, says Hanger, costs taxpayers a billion dollars in court and prison costs.

“Our prohibition policies on marijuana are a disaster for taxpayers,” he said. “They’re a disaster for sick patients who are being denied cannabis.”

Hanger wants to de-criminalize and tax marijuana — and he hopes that position is a winning one.

“The marijuana issue is a wild card in the deck of politics right now,” he adds.

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