By Keegan Gibson, Managing Editor
It’s little surprise that the Senate hopeful is dialing up the people who fueled Senator Pat Toomey’s successful run last year.
It started with Smith’s hire of former Toomey Campaign Manager Mark Harris. Now the coal industry veteran and Tea Party leader has begun the task of reaching out to the state’s myriad grassroots activists and campaign contributors, Toomey’s among them.
Scott Wagner is president of York-based Penn Waste Inc. He’s supported a number of Republican campaigns in recent years including Mike Smeltzer, the conservative who challenged Rep. Todd Platts last year. He met with Smith last week, and is leaning strongly his way.
“We talked alot about the [coal] business and regulation and permits – I understand all that because I’m in the waste and trucking business and I get all that pretty quickly,” Wagner said.
“I think he’s probably the best candidate out there. I think the guy’s the real deal. I like to do my due diligence, and if that’s the case I’m going to support him.”
Wagner estimates between direct contributions and hosting fundraisers, he accounted for over $200,000 of Toomey’s 2010 haul.
Smith filed with the FEC last week, and is likely to announce officially in the coming weeks. He’s heading to Republican state committee this weekend to press the flesh with more of the state’s insiders.
In addition to Toomey Campaign Manager Mark Harris, Smith recently brought on conservative strategist Ryan Shafik as Conservative Grassroots Coalition Director. Shafik has run campaigns for a number of Pennsylvania candidates, particularly in the South Central and southeast parts of the state.
“I think Tom has a great American story,” said Shafik. “We need more employers in the U.S. Senate, and I think he is the only viable conservative who can beat Bob Casey.”
Harrisburg-area attorney Marc Scaringi announced his Senate candidacy late last year. Mansfield veteran John Vernon, Scranton Tea Party founder Laureen Cummings, Bucks County veterans’ advocate David Christian, and Chester County businessman Steve Welch are all expected to join the race.
PoliticsPA broke the news that former State Rep. and 2010 gubernatorial candidate Sam Rohrer is also leaning toward a bid.
If he gets in, he could hamper Smith’s effort to court Tea Partiers and conservatives.
“If [Rohrer] declares, he’ll become Independence Hall Tea Party PAC’s lead candidate–although we’ll have to wait and see who else enters the fray,” said Don Adams, President of the Philadelphia-based conservative group.
Here’s Wagner in a video for Penn Waste: