After a whirlwind 11 days of speculation and 90-minute candidate forum and voting meeting, the York County Republican Committee nominated state Rep. Ron Miller, R-Jacobus, to run on the party's ballot for a March 18 special election to replace former Sen. Mike Waugh.
Miller, 62, said he was honored to be the nominee and appreciates the confidence of the committee members. If he wins the special election for Senate, he'll resign his seat in the House just before being sworn in in the Senate, he said.
That would likely be a couple of weeks after the election, depending on how long it takes the county to certify the results of the special election.
Miller has served in the 93rd House District since 1999, and he was the only well-known candidate competing with two newcomers to state politics: William Anderson, a 62-year-old IT field administrator from Manheim Township, and Zack Hearn, 37, of Windsor Township, who works as a veterans advocate.
Miller's incumbency was an asset or a liability, depending on which Republican committee member was speaking.
Each candidate had 10 minutes to address the crowd of GOP conferees, and 10 minutes to answer their questions. Hearn, who was out of town for a work obligation, participated by telephone.
Questions ranged from property tax reform and privatization of liquor stores to gay marriage and legalization of marijuana.
Candidates were dismissed for the vote and discussion among conferees, during which Manchester Township resident Lisa Wingert said Miller is the strongest candidate because of his experience and his willingness to negotiate with others to accomplish things.
One conferee said Miller's incumbency and knowledge of "the system" is exactly why he wouldn't get her vote.
But Miller's experience ultimately convinced an overwhelming majority of committee members, though only a simple majority was needed to win. The final vote was Anderson 7, Hearn 8 and Miller 59. There were 94 conferees, but party chair Bob Wilson said some people didn't vote.
Party conflict: Some of the anticipation around Thursday's nominee selection meeting was subdued when conservative Republican Scott Wagner, 58, a Spring Garden Township and owner of Penn Waste and KBS Inc. trucking company, on Friday withdrew his name from consideration.
Wagner said he pulled his name because Republican state leadership's swift-moving schedule was intended to alienate him while giving Miller, the "party favorite," an edge.
The special election was announced just hours after Waugh's resignation, and the nine-week schedule lit a match under candidates, party officials, and county elections workers who have to meet the election deadlines.
Republican leaders have said the party wanted to fill the seat in time for important state budget talks, but Wagner contends they wanted the separate election before the May primary so the local committee could vote Miller into the seat before May and give him the advantage of incumbency.
Wagner considers himself an "independent conservative" and has supported tea party candidates who were opposing mainstream Republicans, including Miller, in primary elections.
Thursday's meeting marked the first time in local history the committee has opened the full nominating meeting to the public, a move that Wilson said was intended to address the "conspiracy theory of a back-room deal."
The details: In the special election, Miller will face Democratic nominee Linda Small, a 53-year-old New Freedom woman who ran against him for his House seat in 2010 and 2012. She's a retired master chief from the U.S. Navy.
The winner of the March 18 election will fill Waugh's seat until the end of the year. Both candidates also plan to run for the full four-year term of the seat in the May 20 primary, as does Wagner.
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 there's typically not a heated contest for York County Senate seats.
Miller has said he's not intimidated by the funding, because "In the end, you can't buy a Senate seat."
He said he's working with the York business community to raise money and he intends to run a "positive campaign."
Miller chairs the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee and is a past chairman of the House Labor & Industry Committee, was the safety and environmental manager of Adhesives Research Inc. in Glen Rock before joining the legislature.
- Reach Christina Kauffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.