OK, BIRTHERS, listen up: You now have a Democrat seeking high office who admits to being born in Kenya.

As far as we know he's not Muslim or a socialist, but he is, as of Wednesday, running to unseat Republican Gov. Corbett in 2014.

He is John Hanger, the first Democrat to jump into the race. Others will follow.

Hanger was the state public utility commissioner for five years and a former secretary of environmental protection for two-plus years under Gov. Ed Rendell.

The 55-year-old Hershey resident was expected to formally announce Wednesday morning at 10 at Reading Terminal Market, Wednesday afternoon at the state Capitol and Thursday at the Pittsburgh School for the Creative and Performing Arts.

He says his campaign is based on protecting public education and the environment (two keys to attracting the Democratic primary base). He was to take a school bus from Philly to Harrisburg on Wednesday to stress the former.

Not to be unkind, but Hanger starts this race as a second-tier candidate even before there are tiers.

He's unknown statewide, lives in GOP-rich central Pennsylvania, has never run for public office, faces a daunting fundraising task and, though extremely smart (Phi Beta Kappa from Duke; law degree from Penn), is not blessed with the sort of style or personality that lights up a room.

He candidly describes his endeavor thusly: "It's a leap."

Still, he says, "My candidacy is not a symbolic effort . . . [but] I'm gonna have to demonstrate that I have what it takes to be governor."

That includes raising ungodly amounts of money, since Pennsylvania has no limits on giving or spending in state races.

Corbett raised $25.5 million in 2010; the record for a governor's race is Rendell's $42 million in 2002.

When I ask Hanger about this, his answer suggests he might not be running a high-tech campaign: "We're going to find out. I've got a 28-year Rolodex so we're going to find out."

The Kenya thing? His father was in the British foreign service. Hanger also lived in Ireland and later New Jersey. He's been a U.S. citizen since 1977.

He has Philly links other than law school. He worked for Community Legal Services as a public advocate representing customers of the Philadelphia Gas Works and the Philadelphia Water Department in rate cases.

He's clearly experienced in two areas seen as vulnerabilities for Corbett: energy issues, especially questions of taxing natural-gas drilling, and the environment, especially on questions of public safety related to such drilling.

Hanger was the founding president of PennFuture, a statewide environmental advocacy group, in 1998. He's currently special counsel to the Eckert Seamans law firm for energy and utility issues.

Yet, during an interview, he stresses the need to better fund public schools.

He says Corbett has mounted a "massive assault on public education from pre-K through our state universities" by making education funding a last rather than a first priority.

Asked if he would raise taxes for more education funding, he says, "Obviously, we'll have to see where revenues are, in what we hope is a growing economy."

No incumbent governor legally able to seek re-election has ever lost a bid for a second term in the Keystone State. Corbett indicates he'll seek a second term, although he hasn't formally announced.

Other possible Democratic challengers include Sen. Bob Casey (unlikely, in my view), state Treasurer Rob McCord, former U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, York biz-guy and former Rendell Revenue Secretary Tom Wolf, Philly rich guy and past mayoral candidate Tom Knox and Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski.

Blog: philly.com/BaerGrowls

Columns: philly.com/JohnBaer