No special election called after Wagner departs Senate

David Weissman
York Dispatch
State Sen. Scott Wagner, R-Spring Garden Township, speaks to reporters Monday, June 4 after delivering his farewell address on the Senate floor. Wagner resigned to focus on his gubernatorial campaign. (David Weissman photo)

State Sen. Scott Wagner delivered his farewell address Monday, June 4, on the Senate floor, thanking his colleagues for accepting him the past four years and promising to work with them again when he returns to the Capitol as governor.

The Spring Garden Township Republican will need to defeat incumbent Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, a fellow York County millionaire, in November to deliver on that promise.

He's hoping his resignation, which leaves the majority of York County without a senator, will increase his chances of winning that election by giving him more time to devote to his campaign.

Lt. Gov. Mike Stack was charged with deciding whether to hold a special election to fill Wagner's seat, and he declined, according to a letter sent Tuesday, June 5, to Senate Secretary Megan Martin.

"The significant cost of a special election cannot be justified by the short term of service it would engender," Stack wrote.

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During his resignation speech, Wagner thanked residents of the 28th District, who first elected him as a write-in candidate during a 2014 special election.

He also took time to reflect on his time in office, apologizing to anyone he might have offended with things he's said.

"I’ll admit that I wish I would have given more thought to some of the things I said when I first took office," Wagner said.

Asked after his speech what specifically he was apologizing for, Wagner said it was just a broad apology because he understands his combination of passion and dry sense of humor can offend some people.

Controversial comments attributed to Wagner in his early days in office included comparing public labor unions to Adolf Hitler and Vladimir Putin and stating that he would be sitting a back room with a baseball bat to ensure Senate leadership did things for Pennsylvania.

During his speech, Wagner touted his work on criminal justice reform, anti-discrimination legislation and addressing the heroin/opioid epidemic.

He said he's seen "more issues than (he) can count" during his time in the Senate, but he feels confident every issue can be addressed with a "laser focus on education" and "getting our finances under control."

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Though he's leaving the majority of York County without its senator heading into budget negotiations, Wagner said he believes he has laid the groundwork for the people of his district to be served.

He also pointed out that York County would be well-represented by a strong delegation of House members.

One of those House members is state Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York Township, who is running to fill the now-vacant 28th District seat.

State Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill talks about her career and women in politics at her Jacobus office Thursday, July 6, 2017. She represents the 93rd House District in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Bill Kalina photo

She said she decided to run, in part, because she saw how influential Wagner was in that role, and she wanted to make sure York County continued to have a strong voice in the state Senate.

Phillips-Hill said she's joined a coalition of House members that are going to be calling for a responsible budget this year that addresses the need to fund future payments coming due.

— Reach David Weissman at or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.