Scott Wagner, a York County businessman who for decades has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to conservative candidates and causes in Pennsylvania, will run for the seat of retiring state Sen. Mike Waugh (R).
“I have been very vocal about my frustration with Harrisburg and the completely ineffective system that is in place. It is time to elect legislators who will make the necessary, tough decisions that will benefit the citizens of Pennsylvania instead of the self-interests of those elected to represent us in Harrisburg,” said Wagner, the founder and owner of Penn Waste.
Waugh, 57, announced in August that he would not to seek re-election, citing in part a medical condition.
County Commissioner Steve Chronister and state Rep. Ron Miller have both expressed interested in the seat, which comprises safe Republican territory in central and southern York County.
Wagner’s decision to join the race presents a major headache to state Senate leadership. Chronister and Miller both represent the kind of mainstream Republican likely to support party leaders, who typically are compromise-minded.
Wagner is an outspoken critic of the GOP establishment and legislative leaders who he says are insufficiently devoted to limited government. He falls much closer to the camp of state Sens. John Eichelberger (R-Blair) and Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon) who are more prone to pursue a more conservative policies. They are each critical of lawmaker pensions and other benefits.
“For over three decades, I have had numerous candidates ask me for contributions every election season. Over and over again, they say they stand for something yet their voting record consistently says differently. I am sick and tired of the process and the system,” Wagner said.
“I think the problem with many of our elected officials is that their elected position is the best job they have ever had so their priority is getting re-elected. My priorities are growing the economy, protecting taxpayers and citizens and reforming Harrisburg.”
He has been a major supporter of the Citizens Alliance for Pennsylvania, a group that frequently recruits and supports primary challengers to GOP incumbents. In 2012, CAP helped oust House Transportation Committee Chairman Rep. Rick Geist (R-Blair). He was a major supporter of Sen. Pat Toomey in 2004 and 2010, and frequently supported GOP opponents to Congressman Todd Platts (R-York).
Pa. has no campaign contribution limits and Wagner is free to spend as much of his own funds on the race as he likes. That fact further complicates the 2014 election picture for Senate leadership because the caucus campaign committee must now decide how much to spend in support of its preferred candidate in a safe GOP district.
Any dollar the Senate GOP spends in the York County primary will be unavailable to spend in the general election, when Republicans must defend potentially vulnerable incumbents in eastern Pa. like Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) and the open seat of Sen. Ted Erickson (R-Delaware).
The party spent more than $600,000 to help state Rep. Mark Mustio (R-Allegheny) in his failed effort to defeat businessman Raja in 2012 and went on to lose 3 seats in the general election.
They are also hoping to present any like-minded conservative outsiders from posing a serious bid for the open seat of Sen. Mike Brubaker (R-Lancaster), who also is retiring.
Wagner has also been a regular advertiser on PoliticsPA, directing readers to his website which provides information about his broad political philosophy.
In late 2012 he briefly entertained the idea of mounting a primary challenge to Corbett despite having had contributed $40,000 to the Governor’s campaigns.