Common Pleas Judge Mike Flannelly will maintain the support of his biggest Republican donor as he runs on the Democratic ticket in November, and the cost is expected to double in the most expensive judge race ever held in York County.
Flannelly on Tuesday won the Democratic primary, losing the Republican contest to his GOP challenger, retired Congressman Todd Platts. The split is possible because both men, though registered Republicans, cross-filed as Democrats and Republicans.
Conservative businessman Scott Wagner, president and owner of Penn Waste, said he'll continue to invest in Flannelly's campaign despite the new Democratic label, and Wagner will surpass the more than $131,000 he has already given to the race. With another $2,000 in in-kind donations, his $133,000 donation is just shy of the median sale price of a home in York County, $134,000.
The businessman said Wednesday that he expects the cost of Flannelly's campaign to double between the primary and the general election, reaching nearly $300,000.
Wagner said he'll do what he needs to do to make sure Flannelly's campaign is victorious, but he declined to disclose how much more he'll donate personally.
Wagner's complaints: Wagner said Wednesday he's both supporting Flannelly and opposing Platts, against whom he offers a litany of complaints regarding his 12-year tenure in Congress.
While Platts proudly cites his decision to commute to Washington, his coaching of local baseball teams and his involvement with the Boy Scouts,
Wagner criticized the retired legislator for spending too little time in the nation's capital.
"We had a war going on, and he was off at ball games all the time," Wagner said. "When I heard that Congressman Platts was going to run, just the thought that Todd Platts thinks he's entitled to be judge, I called Mike Flannelly."
Flannelly has run three unsuccessful campaigns for the bench, but he was appointed last year to fill a vacancy left when Judge Chuck Patterson died.
Flannelly had announced he would run for the seat before Platts, then put that statement on hold for a couple of weeks after Platts announced his candidacy before confirming he would run.
Wagner said Platts is a formidable opponent simply because he promoted himself by spending taxpayer money to send constituent mailers over the past 12 years.
"He has attempted to brand himself like Corn Flakes," he said.
Platts said the mailers informed constituents and were a duty of the job. He could have spent more, he said.
During his 12 years in Congress, Platts said he returned about $1 million in unused office-expenditure allowances to the U.S. Treasury because he didn't use the money on expenses such as mailers, rent, or salaries in his district office.
No surprise: Platts said he won't be surprised, given Wagner's "previous actions and statements," if the businessman spends $250,000 trying to defeat him.
He said Wagner's "unfortunate expression of disgruntlement and sour grapes is because his expenditure of at least $133,000 didn't procure the result he would like" in the primary.
"Mr. Wagner can attack me as much and often as he wants for having done my job effectively while remaining a hands-on husband and father to my family and a hands-on servant to my constituents by living among them each and every day," Platts said.
The expenditures in the Flannelly race distinguish the two different approaches of the two campaigns, he said.
Since the beginning of the campaign, Flannelly has raised about $147,000 to Platts' $35,000 and spent $119,000 to Platts' $19,000, according to the most recent reports filed with the state Department of State.
Platts said he expects to spend another $19,000 or slightly more before the general election, taking his campaign total to about $38,000. Dividing money spent by the number of total votes garnered, the Platts campaign has spent $.92 per vote compared to Flannelly's $6.23 per vote.
Platts said Wagner's spending "obscene amounts of money trying to dictate the results," and the voters will view it as "outrageous."
"My campaigns have always been and should be about people and not money," he said.
Wagner said the Platts camp has "tried to portray me as bad guy and Mike as a bad guy for taking my money.
"It's almost like my money is dirty money, almost like I'm a drug dealer and dirty money is buying a judge," he said. "That is absolutely a total insult to me and what I have built over the years."
There is no monetary limit to the contributions individuals can legally make to judge campaigns in Pennsylvania, and Flannelly has said he'll recuse himself from any cases involving Wagner or his company.
Flannelly did not return calls for comment. He has previously stated his donor's opinions are his own and he's free to express them.
Most expensive: Republican Party of York County Chairman Bob Wilson said the Flannelly campaign is, to the best of his knowledge, the most expensive judge race ever run in York.
Even $100,000 would be "unusually high" for a judge race, he said.
Though both men are Republicans, the party will only support Platts because he's the nominee, Wilson said.
Of the top Republican donor countering his party's efforts, Wilson said only he wishes Wagner luck.
Bob Kefauver, chairman of the Democratic Party of York County, said his party won't spend any of its resources on the Flannelly campaign.
"We're more interested in electing registered Democrats rather than actively supporting a registered Republican who happens to have won on the Democratic side of the ballot," he said.
-- Reach Christina Kauffman at email@example.com.