Wagner resigning state Senate seat to focus on gubernatorial campaign

David Weissman
York Dispatch
Scott Wagner is congratulated during an election party at Wyndham Garden York after it was announced that he won the Republican primary contest to challenge Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, Tuesday, May 15, 2018. Bill Kalina photo

State Sen. Scott Wagner will be resigning from his Senate seat Monday, June 4, to focus his attention on his gubernatorial bid.

Campaign spokesman Andrew Romeo confirmed the decision, which will leave the majority of York County without representation in the state Senate.

The Spring Garden Township Republican first won the 28th District seat as a write-in candidate during a March 2014 special election.

The district represents a majority of the county, including York City.

Romeo wrote in an email response to York Dispatch questions that leaving the Senate was not Wagner's original plan but that the final decision was made Wednesday, May 30, when he sent his resignation letter to Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati.

"Given the fact that they chose to write his name in on the ballot in 2014, Scott has always felt a special kind of responsibility to his constituents, and it was a tough choice to resign," Romeo wrote. "However, he feels that as governor he can do far more to help them than he has been able to do as a senator."

Lt. Gov. Mike Stack has the discretion to call a special election in the wake of a resignation to find a replacement.

James Kurish, a spokesman for Stack's office, wrote in an email that the lieutenant governor is reaching out to legislative leaders, the administration, the Senate Secretary and election officials "to discuss the various options and reach a decision as to what is best for York County voters and taxpayers."

He expects to reach a decision by the end of Monday, June 4, he added.

More:GOP picks state Sen. Scott Wagner to challenge Gov. Tom Wolf

More:York County as the center of Pa. politics: coincidence or overdue?

Wagner won the Republican gubernatorial nomination in the May 15 election and will be trying to unseat fellow York County millionaire Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat.

In addition to the loss for York County, Wagner's departure means Senate Republicans will, for the moment, lose their "supermajority" — which means the legislative body was composed of 2/3 Republicans, enough to overturn a veto from the governor — ahead of state budget negotiations.

More:GOP wins supermajority in state Senate

The state House GOP would still need at least 11 Democratic votes to reach the two-thirds needed to overturn a veto.

Romeo wrote that Wagner is in the process of working with Republican Sen. Jake Corman to ensure that the interests of York County are adequately represented in the budget process. 

"Scott thinks he has changed the culture in the Senate to the point where (his) causes will be taken up by others this budget cycle," he wrote.

Wagner also chairs the Senate's Local Government Committee.

His decision has the full backing of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania.

More:Wolf, Wagner relying on social media to reach voters directly

“Scott Wagner has always been an outsider that has worked to change the status quo," state GOP chairman Val DiGiorgio said in a statement. "Even since before getting to Harrisburg, he has realized that many aspects of our government are broken. His best chance at fixing them comes not from the Senate, but from the Governor’s office."

Alex Shorb, chairman of the York County GOP Committee, echoed DiGiorgio's sentiment, saying that he felt it was a smart move by Wagner, though he admitted Wagner's voice will be missed during the budget process.

Shorb said the committee has already initiated discussions about what they'll do if a special election is called, but they don't want to get ahead of themselves before the lieutenant governor makes his decision.

Wolf's campaign criticized the move, saying Wagner "is only interested in furthering his own political ambitions."

Chad Baker, chairman of the Democratic Party of York County, said in a statement that "there is nothing admirable nor selfless" about Wagner resigning.

"The majority of York Countians will not have a voice in the Senate this year when it comes time to discuss education funding, infrastructure and key funding for social support and outreach programs," Baker said. "Instead, Wagner is selfishly focusing on his ambition and not the job at hand."

Wagner is expected to address the media Monday after giving a speech announcing his resignation on the Senate floor.

— Reach David Weissman at dweissman@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter @DispatchDavid.