State Sen. Scott Wagner, R-Spring Garden Township, has a tendency to invoke metaphors, conjuring anything from horse racing to fighter pilots to make his point.

In the moments after he was sworn in Wednesday, he offered an old business analogy, "If you have to eat an elephant, eat a bite at a time."

He was referring to the job of a senator, chipping away at ineffective policies and replacing them.

But the metaphor could also describe Wagner's Senate win as the first major victory for Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania, a group that wants to replace the state's "career politicians" with business leaders who don't consider politics the main source of their livelihood.

Scott Wagner sits at his desk after he took the Oath of Office in the senate chambers at the capitol in Harrisburg Wednesday.
Scott Wagner sits at his desk after he took the Oath of Office in the senate chambers at the capitol in Harrisburg Wednesday. (Bill Kalina)

Seat by seat, the group's long-term goal is to get 15 senators and 55 members of the state House elected to restore a "citizen legislature" under an effort called the "Ben Franklin Project," said Leo Knepper, the group's executive director.

"We don't want people who look at this like it's their job," he said.

Wagner, a multimillionaire business owner and a member and supporter of the group, said his service in the Senate job paying $84,012 per year is part of the sacrifice the group is asking of the successful business people who step forward to run.

'"My getting elected is the first step," Wagner said at a post-ceremony luncheon that included Knepper, CAP members and tea party supporters. "The people have spoken, and they want change. If we don't do something now, listen, my business is going to suffer."

Goals: He's one of more than 400,000 business owners in Pennsylvania whose businesses won't thrive unless there's movement toward CAP's pro-business platform, he said.

The group's goals include making Pennsylvania a right-to-work state, "paycheck protection" so people aren't "forced" to pay union dues, reducing business regulations, and mitigating the influences of organized labor and "overzealous" trial attorneys, Knepper said.

Pro-business reforms have been blocked by legislators who bow to pressure from unions and special interests such as the state's public employees union, Knepper said.

CAP also wants to reduce the size and role of the state legislature and make Pennsylvania more like Texas, which has a part-time legislature, he said.

With the state's natural gas boom and other energy resources, "We may be able to enact policies that will make Pennsylvania the Texas of the 21st century," he said.

While Wagner didn't tout his role with CAP during the election, Knepper said it's a "strategic move" to keep the affiliation quiet.

"We're protective of our candidates ... because there are folks in the General Assembly who like things the way they are," Knepper said.

The state GOP fought Wagner, and a known CAP affiliation "disrupts what we're trying to do," Knepper said.

He said there are other candidates across the state and in York County, but he declined to name them.

He said the group has 10 members in the House, but Wagner is the first senator.

GOP opposition: Bob Wilson, who chairs the York County Republican Committee, said the alliance's mission has been well known to political insiders who "know there's a much bigger game plan that CAP has put in place."

Many of the group's business-minded reforms are favored by Republican incumbents, Wilson said, but the group focuses on unseating incumbent Republicans instead of targeting the real opposing force: Democrats.

"Locally, I don't view CAP as Republican-friendly," he said. "They're forcing Republicans to spend more money than necessary to retain Republican seats."

Senate ceremony: Wagner was sworn in by York County Common Pleas Judge John Thompson Jr., with a prayer offered by the Rev. Mark Kearse of Cornerstone Baptist Church in York.

Supporters and family filled a gallery in the Senate chamber, with Wagner's York Township parents, his two daughters, and his fiancee among those in attendance.

The new senator had a few first-day jitters, having to turn around to pick up a tie after he left the house without one, but he said the Senate staff and senators have been "exceptionally professional" throughout his orientation.

He was scheduled to spend much of the day in session, and he said he was looking forward to "getting the job done."

Wagner's fiancee, Tracy Higgs of Queen Anne's County, Md., said Wagner has been "a good sport" throughout a chaotic special-election and resistance from the GOP establishment.

"He has actually, throughout this whole process, been pleasant," she said. "He loves this, and he loves his businesses."

Higgs said she and Wagner made a special connection after meeting because they both owned dump-truck companies.

Wagner's term marks the first time a Pennsylvania senator has been elected through a write-in campaign, and he'll fill the seat through the end of the session on Nov. 30. He's also a candidate for the May 20 primary and the Nov. 4 general election, the winner of which will hold the seat for a full four-year term.

— Reach Christina Kauffman at ckauffman@yorkdispatch.com.