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York's Waugh resigns senate seat, takes over Farm Show - abc27 WHTM

York's Waugh resigns senate seat, takes over Farm Show

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

"Job one, today, is clean up from the Farm Show mess," laughed Mike Waugh, the new Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Farm Show as he strolled through a litter-strewn food court.

It's been an eventful 24 hours for the York County native. He resigned his state Senate seat on Sunday, was appointed by Governor Corbett to head the Farm Show Monday morning, and was already on the job Monday afternoon. Waugh replaces Patrick Kerwin, who retired.

The typically understated Waugh, a lifelong farmer, was enthusiastic—even giddy—at the prospects of his new position.

"I guess if there was a dream job, this is probably it for me," said a smiling Waugh of the job with a yearly salary of $104,294.

Waugh, a Republican, was a state representative from 1993 to 1998, when he moved to the Senate. He said he and his wife decided prior to his last election that it was time to saddle up and leave the legislature.

"We sat down and said, 'Is there going to be another chapter, or are you gonna stay in the Senate until you're 80 years old?' We decided that 2010 was my last run."

Waugh's resignation triggers a special election. Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley announced Monday that election will be March 18. The winner will finish out the nine months left on Waugh's term.

York Republicans and York Democrats will internally select candidates to run in the special election. In May, there will be a primary for a new four-year term that begins in January 2015. The winner of the special election can lay claim to being the incumbent, if only for a few months. 

One theory suggests the timing of Waugh's resignation was orchestrated by Senate Republican leadership in an attempt to block York County businessman Scott Wagner, who announced in September that he's running for the seat.

The theory goes that GOP leaders would hand-pick Waugh's successor who would have the incumbency advantage over Wagner. One name prominently mentioned is State Representative Ron Miller - (R) Jacobus - who's been in the legislature since 1998 and viewed by many as a safe pick for party leaders. Miller has not yet announced a senate candidacy and did not return calls Monday seeking comment.

"That not really fair and open," said Wagner. "It's behind-the-scenes dealing."

Wagner is an outspoken conservative and a wealthy businessman, most notably owner of Penn Waste. Wagner insists he'll win the seat and publicly promised that when he does he won't vote for Dominic Pileggi as majority leader.

"There's no secret Dominic Pileggi, Senate Majority Leader, is trying to recruit a candidate to run other than me," Wagner said. "That's unfortunate because that's not a great way to start a relationship when I come to Harrisburg, and I AM coming to Harrisburg. I'm gonna work hard, and I'm going to get elected."

Wagner is brash, has cash and conservative cred. That he's not afraid to tweak the establishment at the Capitol will only make him more popular.

"It's time to have some different people in Harrisburg, and I'm going to be one of those people."

Waugh dismisses the political conspiracy theories about his resignation. He says the time was now for his dream job. Besides, he adds, if he really wanted to block Wagner he would've resigned a year ago and give the winner of the special election a full year of incumbency.

On Monday, there were also constitutional questions raised about Waugh's new job at the Farm Show. The Pennsylvania Constitution prohibits senators or representatives from being appointed to salaried state jobs, "during the term in which they're elected."

One interpretation suggests Waugh can't take the job, or the salary, until his term expires at the end of the year. A spokeswoman at the Department of Agriculture insists that very question was vetted and the constitutional ban does not apply to the Farm Show Executive Director position. 

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