Wagner announces run for governor

David Weissman, and Jason Addy
York Dispatch
  • State Sen. Scott Wagner will officially jump into the 2018 governor's race in January.

The 2018 race for governor might come down to two businessmen from York County.

Sen. Scott Wagner, R-Spring Garden Township, speaks ahead of vice presidential candidate Mike Pence's campaign stop in Manchester Township at Penn Waste Inc. on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016. Amanda J. Cain photo

State Sen. Scott Wagner, R-Spring Garden Township, told The York Dispatch on Thursday that he intends to run for governor. Wagner said he is in the preparation stages and will set up his campaign committee before making a formal announcement in January.

He said he will use millions of his own money but stopped short of saying he would self-fund the entire campaign.

"I'm going to put a significant seven-figure check into my campaign account, but I'll be fundraising," Wagner said. "I'm not going to totally self-fund because I've had a lot of people that have offered to support me."

The first-term politician will run on a platform of fiscal conservatism focused on reducing spending in Harrisburg and fixing the pension and skilled-labor "crises" in Pennsylvania.

"The pension crisis is the No. 1 problem that we have to solve, because about 66 cents of every new dollar that comes into the Treasury goes toward paying pensions," Wagner said. "Simply, mathematically, we cannot sustain this."

Trump: Wagner's decision comes on the heels of a victory for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, though Wagner has said that he was considering running.

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Wagner, owner of Penn Waste, was a staunch supporter of Trump. He hosted Trump's running mate, Mike Pence, for a rally at Penn Waste's recycling facility and purchased about 15,000 Trump signs to hand out to local supporters.

At the Pence rally, state GOP vice chairwoman Joyce Haas referred to Wagner as "our Donald Trump," and the two have often been compared locally because of their business backgrounds and outspoken nature.

A Trump presidency can mean progress for the Keystone State, Wagner said.

"I think that if Donald Trump as president can slow down and stop some of the unnecessary regulations that we're seeing, that would help Pennsylvania immensely," he said. "Donald Trump is going to slow the government down. And if he slows the federal government down, a lot of that stuff trickles down to the state government."

Leadership: Wagner is serving his first term as state senator after running a successful write-in campaign during a special election in 2014. He was the first person ever to win a state Senate seat as a write-in candidate.

"I've been in the Senate 2½ years. I know what the problems are," Wagner said. "The big problem is there's a lack of leadership."

Wagner lamented the leadership skills of former Gov. Tom Corbett and current Gov. Tom Wolf during their time in charge of the state, highlighting Corbett's lack of relationships with state House and Senate members.

Without those relationships, "you're going nowhere, really. You've got a government in gridlock," he said. "It's the same way with Gov. Wolf. He just doesn't have the relationships with the House and Senate that he should have, and it makes his job tougher."

Republicans, Democrats and independents will all support his campaign, Wagner said.

"People are fed up with government. They want to see change," he said. "Donald Trump got elected because he is basically using a line that 'It's time to drain the swamp,' and it is time to drain the swamp. I'm going to run an effective campaign. I'm running to win, and I'm going to win."

If Wagner were to win the Republican primary, he would likely face Wolf, himself a former businessman from Mount Wolf.

Governor Tom Wolf talks to reporters after touring Ferguson K-8 Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016. He was at the school as part of his Schools That Teach tour. Bill Kalina photo

Wolf, then-chairman of his family-owned Wolf Organization, also made history in 2014 by unseating Corbett, the Republican incumbent. It was the first time in modern history that a seated Pennsylvania governor wasn't granted a second term.