In York County's 28th Senatorial District, you'll find rolling green farmland and friendly people. There is much beauty in this patch of Pennsylvania and much to like.
But the race to replace retired Senator Mike Waugh has brought an ugliness to the place.
Scott Wagner is a millionaire owner of Penn Waste, and in the latest campaign commercial he gets trashed. An elderly couple accuses Wagner of being a bully and ruining their lives over a $600 lawsuit. The deep-voiced narrator asks, "If he sued an elderly widow, what would Scott Wagner do to us if he got into power?"
Wagner is no shrinking violet. In his own ads, he's been ripping Senate Republican leadership for weeks, saying they're the bullies who are pulling the strings behind scenes for Representative Ron Miller - (R) Jacobus.
"The political class hasn't won yet," Wagner says in his commercial. "Let's send a message together that we aren't settling for their handpicked candidates and back-room deals any longer."
The gloves are off.
"Yes, it is ugly," Miller concedes Wednesday afternoon. "I'd prefer if we could go back and have the debates on issues and get rid of all this outside influence, but it is what it is."
The ads attacking Wagner are paid for by the Senate Republican Campaign Committee.
"I think it's outrageous," said Representative John McGinnis - (R) Blair. McGinniss, who's gotten contributions from Wagner, protested the special election earlier this week at the York County Courthouse.
He's especially upset that Senate Republicans are using dollars donated by Republicans to pay for ads attacking a Republican. That money, he says, would be better spent targeting Democrats.
"I'm a member of the Republican party, a Reagan Republican, and I think our party is being poorly served by these power-broker tactics."
Miller insists he didn't approve the ad, funded by Senate Republicans. He said he only sees them when they air on television. But he doesn't apologize for the ad calling Wagner a bully.
"I'm assuming it's true," Miller said. "And, you know, going after an 80-plus-year-old lady does appear to be a bit of a bully."
Miller understands the critics who say spending more than $200,000 on a special election in March is a waste of money. There's a regularly scheduled primary election in May. Miller agrees with that complaint and says he didn't call the special election, he merely decided to run in it. He also says Senate Republicans will need him for a few tough votes between March and May.
Critics, like Senator Rob Teplitz - (D) Dauphin-York Counties, don't buy it.
"The idea that it has something to do with the budget is nonsense. Nothing serious is going to happen for a freshman legislator in the budget before the primary. The election could certainly wait."
But it won't wait. On Tuesday, somebody will get the most votes, but it will be hard to find a winner.
"The advertising is brutal," said activist Gene Stilp, who filed a complaint Wednesday with the Inspector General's office. "And the voters are basically being abused by the politicians again."
Miller is the Republican, and some observers think that Wagner's write-in campaign will hand the election to Democrat Linda Small.
"You just described the whole issue for York County Republican voters, and I hope they're wise enough to see through this," Miller said. "We need to make sure I go to the Senate so that doesn't happen."
Tuesday, August 19 2014 1:03 PM EDT2014-08-19 17:03:38 GMT
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