Though it has hardly been a secret for a few months now, state Sen. Scott Wagner officially announced his intentions Wednesday morning to run for governor in 2018.
The Spring Garden Township Republican made the first of six scheduled stops across the state Wednesday at East Manchester Township's Penn Waste facility.
The president and owner of the company, Wagner said it was important for him to kick off his campaign at Penn Waste because he's proud of what he's built there and the people he employs. Wagner's tour continues Thursday.
Wagner first told The York Dispatch about his intentions to run for governor in mid-November.
The guest list for the invite-only campaign kickoff included state Reps. Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township; Seth Grove, R-Dover Township; Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York Township; Kate Klunk, R-Hanover; and York County Commissioner Chris Reilly.
Also in attendance were Wagner's parents, Anne and Jack Wagner, who said they never expected their son to enter politics, much less run for the state's highest office.
"It was a surprise to all of us when he started, but he's been very successful," Jack Wagner said. "Let's keep the ball rolling."
Scott Wagner entered the political fold in 2013, when he ran and won the first successful write-in campaign for a Senate seat in state history.
The first-term senator said Wednesday that he decided to enter politics for four reasons: He was tired of "being an ATM machine for career politicians that were all talk and no action;" excessive regulations were "choking" his company; he was tired of being treated like a criminal as a business owner; and he felt out-of-control government wasn't adequately representing middle-class citizens, including his employees.
Anne Wagner said her son's passion has helped lead him to this point, and she appreciates as a state resident that even if he doesn't know the answer to an issue, he will work to find an answer and make the situation better.
She said if her son is elected governor, she hopes he is able to focus on pension reform, prevailing wage and land preservation, an important issue for her family, which owns a small farm — where Scott Wagner grew up — in the southern part of the county.
Sen. Wagner is the first Republican to announce a bid for the 2018 gubernatorial election, and he said he hopes his early start will give state residents a better opportunity to get to know him.
He planned visits to businesses in Bucks, Schuykill, Blair, Westmoreland and Erie counties Wednesday and Thursday for similar announcements.
Despite having a primary election to win first, Wagner used his initial announcement to criticize the likely Democratic candidate, Gov. Tom Wolf.
"I can report to you, honestly, that I have seen progress over the last two years in Harrisburg," he said. "However, there is a major roadblock that is preventing major reforms from taking place. The roadblock that I'm talking about is Gov. Tom Wolf."
Wolf and Wagner are both wealthy York County businessmen, but Wagner pointed out Wednesday that the difference is Wolf is a seventh-generation businessman, while he started his companies from scratch.
The state Republican Party gained a larger majority in the House and a supermajority in the Senate during the past election, and Wagner said that as long as the GOP is a majority and Wolf is in office, the state won't go anywhere.
Opposition: In response to Wagner's announcement, the state Democratic Party issued a statement alleging that Wagner would move Pennsylvania backward.
“Scott Wagner represents everything that's wrong with the Legislature in Harrisburg, and he promises to take us back to the failures of the past," party spokesman Preston Maddock said. “Gov. Wolf has worked to bring a different approach, making schools his top priority by protecting education funding and providing historic investments in our schools at all levels while expanding treatment to fight the opioid and heroin crisis."
The state Democratic Party was joined in its opposition to Wagner's announcement by a group of union members from Service Employees International Union Local 668, which represents many of the recently furloughed state Department of Labor and Industry workers.
A group of about 20 marched from a nearby convenience store to the Penn Waste facility prior to the announcement to express their opposition to the senator's candidacy.
Wagner has served as a source of criticism for the union and its members since he told The York Dispatch in November that he led the charge against holding a vote on providing additional funding to the labor department prior to the furloughs.
Wagner has insisted that Wolf could've found the money to keep the workers employed if he really wanted.