Mike Waugh (R-York) announced in August that he would not seek a fourth term in the state Senate.
But four Republican sources told PoliticsPA that Waugh plans to announce his resignation this week, effective Monday. It will trigger a special election that gives party officials an edge in choosing his replacement.
“It’s set to happen this week. His resignation letter is already written,” said one Republican.
Waugh was unavailable to comment. He has suffered from cancer in the past and cited illness in his August announcement.
The 28th district is a safe seat for the GOP. The bigger schism is within the Republican party, where many view the primary as a proxy battle between state Senate leadership, including Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware), and conservatives.
Conservative businessman Scott Wagner declared his candidacy in September. Last week, he announced that he has raised $268,000 to date.
Wagner is independently wealthy and has been a major donor to conservative candidates and causes. He has frequently criticized GOP leadership in Harrisburg and said he would not support Pileggi for GOP Majority Leader.
He also advertises on PoliticsPA.
Though no other candidate has emerged to run, most expect state Rep. Ron Miller (R-York) to be the establishment Republican candidate.
PoliticsPA is seeking comment from Miller.
In a special election, nominees are not chosen in a primary vote. Instead, the winner is selected by county committee members and approved by the state GOP. In York County, conservative activists and party leadership have been at odds for years. It is very likely that the party would nominate Miller.
York County GOP Chairman Bob Wilson declined to speculate.
“The Senator is still the Senator,” Wilson said. “So all of this talk of a special election is very premature.”
Several sources said Senate Republicans sought unsuccessfully to recruit Pa. Department of Welfare Secretary Beverly Mackereth into the race. Several SD-28 Republicans received a poll call testing her and Miller against Wagner.
Wagner said he, too, had heard rumors of Waugh’s impending retirement.
“This is another backroom deal. The kind of thing that has been going on far too long in Harrisburg,” he said. He attributed Waugh’s decision in part to a maneuver by Pileggi.
PoliticsPA is seeking comment from Pileggi.
Another Republican confirmed the retirement news, but said it had little to do with the primary.
“It’s possible to read more into these things than there is,” he said. “I think [Sen. Waugh] is retiring for personal reasons. If they schedule a special election, it’s more likely that they want to have that 27th Republican vote there in time for budget season.”
Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley has 10 days after any vacancy to choose the date of a special election, which must not be within 60 days. If Waugh retires effective Monday, as Republican sources confirmed to PoliticsPA, the election could occur before the May 20 primary. The winner would fill the remainder of Waugh’s term.
The 2014 primary would proceed as normal, and the winner of the general election would take office in January 2015.
Wagner said he would continue his bid in the regular primary even in the event of a special election. He said he would not run as an independent in the special election because such a bid would require him to change his party registration.