Scott Wagner greets supports at Santander Stadium Tuesday night.
Scott Wagner greets supports at Santander Stadium Tuesday night. (JOHN A. PAVONCELLO)

Yorkers were drawn to the polls during Tuesday's special election to cast ballots based on political philosophy and personality, rather than a single hot-button issue.

While policy positions did factor in, many voters in the 28th Senate District said they voted on principle and were guided by what they knew about the three candidates and how they behaved during their campaigns.

Much of what they knew about the candidates came in the form of negative information, with conservative Republican write-in challenger Scott Wagner portraying GOP mainstay Rep. Ron Miller a sold-out career politician; the state GOP establishment labeled Wagner an elderly-widow-suing "millionaire trashman" who wanted to buy an election and declared Democrat Linda Small a global-warming-"obsessed" radical.

Adverse effect: Voters said the hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of ads influenced their votes, though maybe not as intended.

Democrat Jim O'Neill, 65, of York Township, said the negative campaigning from Republicans turned him off and confirmed his vote for Small, who attacked the policies of her counterparts but not their persons. He doesn't agree with all of Small's policy positions, he said, but "I'll vote for her before I'll vote for somebody who wants to shove things down my throat."

O'Neill said he believed Wagner's and the county Democrats' assertion that the timing of the special election to replace resigned former Sen. Mike Waugh was called by state Republicans to make the race more advantageous for Miller, the party favorite.

"It was not necessity, just shenanigans," he said.

Independent Red Lion voter Tim Anderson, 58, said the Republican "smears" against Wagner strengthened his conviction to vote for the conservative businessman, who owns Penn Waste trash contractor.

"At least he's footing the bill for (his campaign) himself," Anderson said. "(The Republican establishment) is bought and paid for. Scott Wagner's a working man and he knows how to run a business."

That business sense would be good news to a state with Pennsylvania's budget woes, he said.

Experience matters: Voters at one Shrewsbury Township polling place agreed experience matters in politics, but they disagreed about whether it's a feature or a detracting factor.

Republicans Michael and Chris Chilcote said they voted for Miller because they have experience with him; Chris Chilcote said she previously worked with Miller's wife at a library, and the two are good members of the community who care about their neighbors.

Miller and his district office have always been responsive to their inquiries, the couple agreed, and Miller is a "reasonable" person whose views are more moderate and less extreme than his competitors'.

"Compromise doesn't seem like a dirty word to him," said Michael Chilcote, 71.

But registered Republican and retired teacher Jack Osman, also of Shrewsbury Township, said Small got his vote — even though he disagrees with her pro-choice stand on abortion — because she hasn't ever been in politics.

"Since she's new, there's less potential for her to have been corrupted," he said.

While Wagner is also a political newcomer, Osman said he refused to give his vote to anyone who "got nasty" while campaigning.

Osman's wife Beverly Osman, a registered Democrat and also a retired teacher, said Small took her vote.

The wealthy Wagner has committed to spend hundreds of thousands on his bid for the open seat, and Beverly Osman said she's "suspicious of anyone with that much money."

She thinks there should be limits set on self-financed campaigns, she said.

— Reach Christina Kauffman at ckauffman@yorkdispatch.com.