Race for Pa. LG is underway

While prominent Democrats play the pre-primary positioning game for the top spot on the ticket to defeat Gov. Corbett in 2014, the race for No. 2 is also underway.

Mark Smith, former chairman of the Bradford County Board of Commissioners in Northeastern Pennsylvania, declared Thursday that he is running for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor.

Bradford County Commissioner Mark Smith, candidate for Pa. lieutenant governor.

Smith said that the next lieutenant governor must be more than a “placeholder” in the next administration’s mission to undo the damage Corbett caused.

“As lieutenant governor I will work relentlessly as a public advocate to give a voice to those people and communities that are all too often left behind by the bureaucracy in Harrisburg,” Smith said during his announcement at the Weigh Station Café in Towanda, Pa., about 65 miles northwest of Scranton.

Smith served as chairman of the county commissioners from 2008 to 2011, the youngest person at age 29 to hold the post, and only the second Democrat ever. He is still a minority commissioner, with the GOP holding a 2-1 edge on the board.

Smith has been a prominent critic of the Corbett administration’s hands-off approach to environmental regulation of natural gas drillers in the Marcellus Shale.

Bradford County, in the Endless Mountains region, has been the top county in the state for drilling related to the boom, one reason jobs increased 15 percent there in the past three years.

“There is no doubt that we need the energy and the economic development (natural gas) has brought to rural Pennsylvania,” Smith said. “However, we must approach the protection of our environment and public health with absolute vigilance. There is no compromise to be found between gas development and environmental safety. We cannot have one without the other.”

In Pennsylvania, candidates for lieutenant governor and governor run separately in the party primaries. Sometimes, a leading gubernatorial candidate will express a preference but not always. That can lead to some political shotgun weddings, like the Democratic pairing between former Gov. Ed Rendell and former Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll in 2002.