Bradford County Commissioner Mark Smith announced Thursday that he is running for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, saying he would use the office to advocate for people "who are all too often left behind by the bureaucracy in Harrisburg."

In a speech on Thursday in Towanda and on his website, Smith called for tougher gun control laws, universal pre-school and early childhood education programs, and more spending to address the state's aging transportation infrastructure.

Smith, who has served four years as the chairman of the Bradford County commissioners, also said he would take the office of lieutenant governor in a new direction.

"It's time to re-write the job description of the lieutenant governor so it meets the needs of the people and Pennsylvania's future," Smith said in his announcement speech, which he delivered to approximately 60 people at the Weigh Station Cafe in Towanda. "The next lieutenant governor must be more than just a placeholder. Pennsylvania needs a lieutenant governor to engage with citizens and local governments across the state to seek solutions to our most pressing issues. 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 is serving his second term as a Bradford County commissioner. At age 29 in 2008, he became the youngest chairman of the Bradford County commissioners in the county's history. Smith also represents an 11-county region on the board of directors of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania.

"I think he (Mark Smith) has got as good a shot of winning (the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor) as anyone at this point," said Andrew Eldredge-Martin, who in 2006 managed Chris Carney's successful run for congressman representing Pennsylvania's 10th District, and who is volunteering to help launch Smith's campaign.

The election for the nomination of a lieutenant governor "often ends up being a grassroots election, where you have to work hard traveling across the state meeting people," said Eldredge-Martin, who has also served as a campaign manager for other candidates running for Congress.

Asked whether Smith would be able to raise the funds needed for his campaign, Eldredge-Martin replied: "Fundraising is important in a campaign, but I think that the most important thing for Mark is get out there across the state and (introduce himself to people), because he has a really unique and powerful story," including his accomplishments as a county commissioner, Eldredge-Martin said.

Smith has "already been meeting with folks in different places in the state" as part of his campaign, Eldredge-Martin said. "And he's going to keep a high-intensity schedule of doing ... that," Eldredge-Martin added.

Voters in the spring 2014 primary will determine which candidate will win the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor.

In his speech, Smith took aim at the Corbett administration.

Gov. Corbett and his administration have "waged war on public education, let our roads and bridges fall to pieces, and they fought to deny health care coverage to Pennsylvanians in need," Smith said. "The governor has yet to fully explain his handling of the horrible tragedy still haunting Penn State University. He has had his chance; he has failed the test. It's time for a new administration in Harrisburg, one that puts people first," Smith said.

Smith said that hunting is "a way of life" across Pennsylvania and that he, too, had learned to hunt as a young person.

However, he said, "I will not use our heritage ... as a reason or excuse for inaction on the gun issue," Smith said. "In the wake of so much tragedy, delay is unacceptable. I want to fight for common sense gun laws that protect the well-being of the innocent, and protect the sanctity of the Second Amendment. Requiring more stringent background checks or taking meaningful action to limit the sale of military assault rifles does not deny any lawful citizens' right to bear arms. We can take meaningful steps forward on this issue."

While serving as a county commissioner, Smith cut taxes, passed four balanced budgets, refinanced the county's debt and revamped the county's energy usage and efficiency policies, saving taxpayers millions of dollars, according the Smith campaign's website.

Smith is pro-choice and believes that birth-control should be readily accessible, according to his campaign's website.

"Democrats and Republicans should work together to reduce the number of teen pregnancies and abortions through education and responsible policy," Smith said on his campaign website.

"It's time for Pennsylvania to create high quality, universal preschool and early childhood education programs," Smith said on the website. "The evidence is clear and convincing that this is a sound educational and economic investment for the Commonwealth."

On the issue of gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale, Smith called for vigilance in protecting the environment.

"There is no doubt that we need the energy and the economic development (Marcellus gas drilling) has brought to rural Pennsylvania," Smith said in his speech. "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."

James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: jloewenstein@thedailyreview.com