Rep. Ron Miller, R-Jacobus announced Tuesday he will seek the Republican nomination for the 28th Senate District, the seat left vacant with Sunday's resignation of longtime incumbent Sen. Mike Waugh, R-Shrewsbury.
He joins two other Republicans who have announced they'll run in the already contentious race. They are political newcomer Zack Hearn of Windsor Township and businessman Scott Wagner.
Miller said in a Tuesday phone interview that he's qualified to "hit the ground running" because of his tenure in the House, and he is able to work with people of opposing views instead of "fighting, just for the sake of fighting."
He said Waugh was a good senator, but there are some issues he would like to "push a bit harder," including prevailing wage reform, worker's compensation reform and property tax reform.
The senate is "a different world," than the House, with only 50 senators instead of 203 representatives, "but it's still just a matter of working with colleagues to get things done," Miller said.
Hot race: If the 62-year-old Miller wins the senate seat, it'll be the second time he followed Waugh into an office, as Waugh preceded Miller in the 93rd House District before being elected to the Senate.
Miller said he sent a letter to members of the York County Republican Committee, and he plans run in both the March 18 special election (being held to fill Waugh's term until it expires at the end of the year) and the May 20 primary, during which the top Republican and Democratic vote-getters will advance to their party's ballot for the November general election to fill a full four-year term for the seat.
The race is already heated, and Wagner has said Waugh's appointment as head of the state farm show complex, his early resignation and the special election were Republican schemes to advance Miller to the seat because he's more of a "party loyalist."
Both major parties and the Libertarians can nominate a candidate to appear on the ballot for the special election, and Wagner said the person elected to finish Waugh's term will have the advantage of incumbency.
Bob Wilson, who chairs the county's Republican Party, has called Wagner's assertions "ludicrous." Wilson declined to comment about Miller's announcement Tuesday.
The money: Miller said he fully expects that he would be considered the party favorite because he has spent years working to build the Republican Party in York.
He said Wagner is entitled to make assertions if he wishes, but "I didn't resign from anything. Waugh resigned, the farm show ended Sunday and all those events were out of my control."
Wagner is a successful businessman with deep pockets, and he has raised more than $300,000 for the race, though the average senate race in York costs only about $70,000.
But Miller said he's not intimidated by funding.
"This race will be won on the ground with the voters," he said. "It takes money to get the message out, no doubt about it. But in the end, you can't buy a senate seat. You have to get the correct number of votes from the voters to get elected."
Miller said he's working with the York business community to raise money, and wealthy businessman Louis Appell Jr. has signed on as honorary finance chair of Miller's senate campaign.
"We will raise sufficient funds to run an effective campaign," Miller said.
It'll also be a positive campaign, Miller said.
"I think I've demonstrated that through eight campaigns, always positive," he said. "That doesn't mean that if somebody goes negative that you don't have to respond, but you do it in the best way possible. In York County, you need to deliver the message about what are you doing to do for the people, it's not beating up on somebody else."
Candidates: Miller, who chairs the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee and is a past chair of the House Labor & Industry Committee, was the safety and environmental manager of Adhesives Research Inc. in Glen Rock before joining the legislature.
Hearn also announced Tuesday that he'll run for the special election as well as the primary.
Within minutes of Miller's announcement, President York County Commissioner Steve Chronister, who had said he was considering a run for the Republican nomination, announced he's out of the race. He said he hadn't yet heard that Miller was planning to run, but he had already decided he could be more effective if he stayed in his current position.
Chronister said he reached his decision Tuesday morning after speaking with an longtime friend who encouraged him to remain a commissioner.
"His advice and support, coupled with input from family, friends and constituents, led to my decision not to seek the seat," Chronister said. "... Although I've decided not to run for the Senate seat, I will continue to leverage my position as commissioner to push for much-needed state-level changes, including the elimination of property tax and education reform."
-- Reach Christina Kauffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.