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January 16, 2014 | By | Posted in WatchBlog

‘Backroom political maneuvering’ cost taxpayers $200K, candidate says

By Eric Boehm | Watchdog.org

A York County, Pa., businessman running for state Senate as a conservative Republican alleges GOP leaders in Harrisburg conspired against him.

EXIT, STAGE RIGHT: Former state Sen. Mike Waugh resigned on Monday to take a job with the Pennsylvania Farm Show. One of the candidates to fill that seat thinks there was more going on than meets the eye.

To understand his thinking, some background information is needed.

Last year, state Sen. Mike Waugh, R-York, announced he would not seek re-election when his term ended in 2014. Among the candidates jockeying to fill the soon-to-be-vacant seat was Scott Wagner, a wealthy businessman long known for supporting conservative political causes.

After years of supporting others’ campaigns, Wagner said he was ready to throw his own hat in the ring.

But Monday, Waugh announced he was resigning from the state Senate immediately to become the new executive director of the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex. As a lifelong farmer, it’s something of a dream job and comes with a nice salary — $104,000, a bit more than the $83,000 annual salary for members of the General Assembly.

With the Senate seat now vacant, Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley was allowed to select a day for a special election. Later Monday, Cawley announced that election would be March 18.

No more than a few hours later, state Rep. Ron Miller, R-York, declared his candidacy for the Republican nomination for Waugh’s seat.

“What happened in a span of 36 hours is a blatant example of backroom political maneuvering at its worst,” Wagner said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “The timing of it all is questionable at best.”

Things did happen pretty fast; it usually takes days or even weeks after a members’ resignation before a special election is called.

Wagner said the speed of the decision was not all that bothered him. The fact the special election is not being held on the same day as the state’s primary elections in May means taxpayers will have to pay as much as $200,000 to open the 111 polling places in the district for the special election.

Since each party is allowed to choose one nominee for the special election, Wagner believes the Republican Party hierarchy will endorse Miller, thus denying Wagner a place on the ballot as a Republican in the special election.

“This is an orchestrated attempt to deny the voters a choice of who to vote for in the 28th Senate District,” he said.

Chad Saylor, Cawley’s spokesman, dismissed Wagner’s claims of a conspiracy.

“The cost is justified because a state budget is going to be on the agenda and the people of York County deserve to be represented during that important debate,” Saylor said.

On Monday, Miller said he was seeking the state Senate seat because he was “uniquely positioned to hit the ground running and aggressively tackle the important issues facing the citizens of York County and the commonwealth in the coming months and beyond.”

He did not return calls seeking comment about Wagner’s allegations.

The York County Republican Committee will make their nominations in the coming weeks.

Even if he does not get on the ballot for the special election in March, Wagner said, he is committed to running for the same seat in the primary election in May.

Boehm is a reporter for Watchdog.org and PA Independent. He can be reached at Eric@PAIndependent.com and follow @PAIndependent on Twitter for more.

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Eric Boehm is a reporter for PA Independent. He can be reached at Eric@PAIndependent.com or at (717) 350-0963.

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