EIGHT DEMOCRATS seeking the nomination to challenge Gov. Corbett's bid for a second term spent last night mostly agreeing on the topic of sustainable energy while also showing some differences in style.

Drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale region that covers much of Pennsylvania was a steady topic in the forum at the Academy of Natural Sciences, where the crowd was not friendly to that industry.

One candidate, Mechanicsburg pastor Max Myers, drew cheers when he called for a moratorium on natural-gas drilling.

"It's been evident that the natural-gas industry really believes they own Pennsylvania," said Myers, the only Democrat in the race to support a full moratorium.

Five of the candidates - U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, former Department of Environmental Protection Secretaries Katie McGinty and John Hanger, former Department of Revenue Secretary Tom Wolf and Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski - supported a moratorium in public parks and forests.

One candidate, state Treasurer Rob McCord, was skipped on that question, but also supports a limited moratorium.

Only Lebanon County Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz opposed a moratorium.

The forum was moderated by Dave Davies of WHYY-FM, who drew chuckles from the crowd when he said Corbett had been invited to participate but was unable to attend. Corbett is widely viewed as very friendly to the gas-drilling industry, often citing the jobs it creates.

If a Democrat defeats Corbett this year, he or she will likely face a state General Assembly still controlled by Republicans. Davies asked for examples of how candidates would work with the other party.

Hanger, McGinty, Schwartz and McCord cited their previous state government work, though Hanger added this caveat: "You can't work with tea-party Republicans, but there are some sane Republicans left."

Wolf described his work in India as a Peace Corps volunteer, persuading farmers to change century-old methods of rice farming to improve their crops.

Pawlowski noted his work with the General Assembly on neighborhood-improvement-zone legislation for Allentown.

Litz cited volunteer environmental cleanups she has hosted, while Myers spoke of treating legislators with "honor and respect."

One question split the candidates: Since Pennsylvania has few campaign-finance restrictions for statewide office, would they forgo taking money from any particular group?

Hanger and Pawlowski said they would take no money from the gas-drilling industry. Myers said he didn't expect to receive money from people in that industry, and Litz said she hasn't knowingly done so.

McCord, Schwartz, McGinty and Wolf didn't make any pledges, though Wolf had a caveat of his own, since he has contributed $10 million of his own money to his campaign.

"I am the biggest funder of my campaign, so I am beholden to myself," Wolf joked.

Twitter: @ChrisBrennanDN
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