Scott Wagner
Scott Wagner (submitted)

York County businessman and conservative Republican Scott Wagner said he's heard from the people in York County who say they're ready for a change in politics in Harrisburg. Now, he hopes they're willing to write his name in for the special election March 18 to replace Sen. Mike Waugh. Wagner announced Monday he plans to run as a write-in candidate for the election.

He will run against Democratic nominee Linda Small and Rep. Ron Miller, R-Jacobus, who was chosen by the York County Republican Committee for the ballot.

Wagner, of Spring Garden Township and owner of Penn Waste and KBS Inc. trucking company, said he decided to run as a write-in candidate the same week he withdrew his name from consideration for the committee's nominating convention. Wagner said this came after several community members - Republican and Democrat - said they would be tempted to write Wagner's name instead of voting for one of the two listed candidates.

"People are very disappointed in this whole process," Wagner said.

Wagner was originally one of four candidates in the pool to be chosen by the York County Republican Committee to run on the party's ballot for the special election, which was announced after Waugh resigned to work as the director of the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center.

But Wagner withdrew his name from consideration less than a week before the voting meeting, saying Republican state leadership's swift-moving schedule was intended to exclude him while giving Miller, the "party favorite," an edge.

Reaction: Miller said he is not surprised Wagner chose to launch the write-in campaign, and said Wagner had mentioned he would do this if he was not named the Republican candidate for the special election.

Miller said Wagner's decision does not affect his own strategy. Instead, Miller is focused on telling voters about his goals for office.

"I have a campaign to run," Miller said. "It's not about Scott, it's about me."

Small said her focus is also on what she will do if elected, not on who is running against her.

"I'm just interested in solving the issues that are important to voters," Small said. She added her goals are to invigorate the work force, increase state funding for public schools and end unsustainable tax increases, among others.

Republican Zack Hearn, who will run against Wagner and Miller in the primary in May, released a response that questioned Wagner's motives for the write-in campaign. Hearn suggested the tactic would split the votes between Wagner and Miller, giving Small a greater chance of winning.

But Wagner said that won't be an issue if his objective is met.

"That's not a concern for me," Wagner said. "My goal is to win the special election."

New efforts: Wagner considers himself an "independent conservative" and has supported tea party candidates who were opposing mainstream Republicans, including Miller, in primary elections.

Wagner's campaign, though still preparing for the primary in May, has shifted to a renewed focus on the special election. Wagner said his campaign has put up a couple dozen billboards around York, encouraging voters to write his name on the ballot at the special election. Television advertising started Monday, and Wagner said the campaign is also investing in radio spots, mailings and web blasts from his website.

Wagner said unlike in the primaries, when party registration matters, Democrats, Independents and Republicans can choose to write his name on the ballot in March.

"This is their chance to make history," Wagner said.

- Reach Nikelle Snader at nsnader@yorkdispatch.com.