Tom Wolf, a York County businessman, local philanthropist and former state revenue secretary, said he is running for governor and vowed to put up at least $10 million of his own money in his campaign for the 2014 Democratic nomination.
"I think we can do a much better job in Pennsylvania," he said Tuesday morning.
The 64-year-old resident of Mount Wolf emphasized his success in turning around The Wolf Organization Inc., a York building-products company that has been in his family for six generations; his Peace Corps service as a young man in rural India, and his support for government policies that promote education and provide help to people who need it.
"As someone who runs a business, I depend on good schools, roads and bridges, and we don't have them," Wolf said.
Public education, infrastructure and creating jobs would be among his top priorities as governor, he said.
"We need jobs," Wolf said. "As (former Gov.) Ed Rendell said, 'The best social welfare policy is jobs.'"
Wolf served as revenue secretary in the Rendell administration for nearly two years before he stepped down in 2008. He ran for governor in 2010, but dropped out before the primary, saying the campaign conflicted with his business responsibilities.
His professional experience and personal wealth make him a strong candidate in the eyes of many party leaders, and he echoed other Democratic hopefuls in portraying Republican Gov. Tom Corbett as insensitive to the needs of middle-class Pennsylvanians and beholden to corporate interests.
Corbett "has spent his term in office putting politics over policy, corporations over people and giving away our natural resources to the highest bidder," Wolf said.
Wolf's use of his own money for his campaign ups the stakes in the May 2014 primary, in which a crowded Democratic field could make fundraising more challenging for the candidates.
He said he will contribute "a minimum" of $10 million for the primary campaign and "we believe we can raise at least another $5 million from supporters across the state."
Wolf said he's always been in public service. From his time in the Peace Corps to serving as chairman for several organizations in York County - including the United Way and York County Chamber of Commerce - he said he's fit to run a state.
He's held onto his smalltown values and has used the experience gained during his post-secondary education, he said.
Wolf has a bachelor's degree from Dartmouth College, a master's degree from the University of London and a doctorate degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
"I'm going to be getting out there and telling my story," he said. "I'll be trying to get people to believe a Democrat from central Pennsylvania can be elected in a statewide race."
More than a half-dozen other hopefuls are in the mix, but the best-known ones - a category that includes U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, former U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak and state Treasurer Rob McCord - have not declared their candidacy.
Two other Democrats had previously announced they are running - state government veteran John Hanger and political unknown Max Myers, both from the Harrisburg suburbs.
Corbett, who is expected to seek a second term next year, received $2.9 million in campaign contributions in 2012, when he wasn't running for office, and ended the year with $3.5 million in the bank.
But Corbett has been battling a stubbornly low job-approval rating. He hopes to burnish his public image through high-stakes initiatives to privatize the sale of liquor and wine, reduce future public pension benefits for current employees and increase a wholesale gasoline tax to finance highway and bridge repairs.
Wolf said the notion that government should be "run like business" must be debunked.
"Businesses are not in the trade of educating our kids, providing health care to low-income families and children, and giving seniors the dignity of a happy and secure retirement. Our government is - or at least it should be," he said.
- Candy Woodall can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org The Associated Press contributed to this report..