How marijuana and math could help a PA gov candidate win the primary

PA Gubernatorial candidate John Hanger speaks to a pro-marijuana rally

PA Gubernatorial candidate John Hanger speaks to a pro-marijuana rally

Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz is bragging—with good reason—about having raised $6.5 million so far in her campaign for Pennsylvania governor. She’s got the most money of any candidate in the Democratic field, by far, and has the most individual contributors, at over 8,000 from all 67 Pennsylvania counties, according to the campaign.

But the announcement hasn’t prompted any of the eight other Democratic candidates to drop out of the race. And part of that has to do with there being, well, nine candidates in the race to replace Pennsylvania’s Republican Governor Tom Corbett.

The more candidates, the better the chance each has to win, because each is striving for the biggest, small proportion of the vote.

With nine people in the race, a candidate would technically be able to win with as little as 12 percent of the vote. This is unlikely to happen, because there are always those candidates who receive less than 5 percent, but you see what I’m saying here.

Anyway, over at Keystone Politics, Jon Geeting recently wrote a piece calling on those Democratic candidates with weak fundraising abilities to drop out of the race—and it created a firestorm of comments in support of former Pennsylvania environmental secretary John Hanger, whom Geeting doesn’t believe can win:

What we know is that Schwartz will have the money to compete in the primary and the general election. We know that Tom Wolf has pledged to use $10 million of his own money to be competitive in the primary and the general election. We can infer from John Hanger’s pleading for mercy spending restraint from the other candidates that he will not have enough money to compete in the primary or the general election.

There are two things to note before we get way into this wild, wonky, stuff. First: almost half of Schwartz’s campaign cash has come from an already-piled supply in her Congressional campaign account.

Second, a Public Policy Polling survey released in November found that while Hanger is not the strongest candidate in the Democratic field amongst other Democrats (he yields 8 percent), he is the strongest candidate in a one-on-one matchup with Gov. Corbett, even though Allyson Schwartz is the odds-on favorite to win the nomination, with 21 percent of Democratic support in the primary.

I spoke with Hanger in late 2013 about this and many other issues. As it happens, the candidate isn’t just confident about his winning the nomination, but he actually ran down how he’d do it, too.

“The posture that we are in is one where we can win this race,” he said, adding: “We’re not in a one-on-one contest. That’s the first thing to understand about this race.”

This not being a one-on-one race, Hanger and his staff believe they’d be able to eke out a win based on turnout and hardcore support.

“There are 4 million registered democrats [in Pennsylvania],” he said. “Twenty-five percent likely turnout, so 1 million are going to vote. And in a race of nine candidates, it’s going to be lower than a 30 percent winning number … Say there aren’t going to be nine on the ballot; well, OK, let’s say there are six — and I would be shocked if it were less than six — it would still take less than 30 percent to win.”

With more candidates and such math, he and his political director Roger Cohen insist, money is going to be less of a factor than it would be in a one-on-one matchup, or if there were, say, three candidates. The candidates signed up so far: Hanger, Schwartz, Tom Wolf, Rob McCord, Jack Wagner, Ed Pawlowski, Katie McGinty, Jo Ellen Litz, and Max Myers.

Hanger’s goal: 300,000 votes on Primary Day. The aforementioned math being what it is, he believes he’s at 100,000 right now (which is optimistic; he’s likely adding the 8 percent he polled in the PPP survey to the 3.7 – 4.4 percent margin of error).

And then there’s his secret weapon: “I’m the most differentiated candidate of the nine,” he said, referring to his stance on marijuana and his endorsement from the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws.

Hanger is the only candidate running who has a plan to legalize recreational marijuana in Pennsylvania, which would make us the third state to do so in the U.S. He has said in the past that issue will propel him to the front come Primary season. And if 300,000 people from around the state believe strongly enough in that issue to vote in the Democratic primary, I guess he could be right.

2 Responses to “ How marijuana and math could help a PA gov candidate win the primary ”

  1. Rob says:

    Vote Hanger, legalize in PA.

  2. [...] be fair to the journalists I’m upset with about how they’re treating this topic, marijuana legalization is a known [...]

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