MANCHESTER, Pa. (WHTM) – Just after 9 a.m. Wednesday, Sen. Scott Wagner stepped up on the makeshift stage at his recycling facility in Manchester Township, York County.
The first-term state senator and full-time trash man hopes that voters give him a bigger stage in 18 months.
“I want to be your next governor,” Wagner said in what is possibly the worst-kept secret in state politics.
“I have the skills to lead. I possess visionary skills to see what the future can look like,” he said in making his case for the state’s top job.
Wagner promised less government regulation and spending, a fix for pensions, and lower property taxes. He also criticized the York County businessman who currently sits in the chair.
“It’s very simple, Governor Wolf is a failed governor. That’s why today I am announcing my candidacy.”
Wagner blamed Wolf for a stagnating economy, higher unemployment than when he assumed the job, and a lack of vision. He also criticized Wolf for the gas tax that was passed by a Republican legislature and signed by Republican Governor Tom Corbett.
Nearby, in a CVS parking lot, union protesters gathered. They blame Wagner for recent layoffs. They will no doubt fight his candidacy as they did Corbett’s re-election.
Wolf, who has not officially announced he’s running, has formed a campaign team and is expected to seek re-election. He had no comment on Wagner’s candidacy, but the Pennsylvania Democratic Party did. It released a statement praising the job Wolf has done.
Spokesman Preston Maddock added, “Scott Wagner represents everything that’s wrong with the legislature in Harrisburg, and he promises to take us back to the failures of the past with billion dollar cuts to education and denying treatment to fend off the heroin and opioid crisis that plagues our communities. Scott Wagner’s the very worst of Harrisburg.”
The Republican primary isn’t until May 2018. Wagner is the first in the race but certainly not the last.
“Most Republicans see Wolf as vulnerable,” said Republican strategist Chris Nicholas with Eagle Consulting Group. “They don’t see him as a good campaigner. They see him as someone who bought his way into the office. That’s not a knock, his money spends as well as anybody else’s.”
And Wagner promised Wednesday to spend millions of his own on his gubernatorial quest.
Possible GOP opponents include western Pennsylvania Congressman Mike Kelly, former Lt. Governor Jim Cawley, Speaker of the House Mike Turzai, House Majority Leader Dave Reed, and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman.
Corman chuckled when I asked him about his possible gubernatorial aspirations. He didn’t say no but said job one, for him, is the budget.
“We’re gonna work on that first,” Corman said. “If there’s an opportunity later to take a look at something like that (governor’s race), we will, but right now, I’m gonna focus on being majority leader which is what my caucus elected me to do.”
Wagner said he doesn’t care who joins in the race but warns them he’s in it to win it.
“I know what I’m all about,” he said. “I know what I stand for. I know what the issues are. I’m running hard and I am going to be the next governor. Take that to the bank.”
Wagner wouldn’t take a no-tax pledge but said he’s confident savings can be found once his team combs over the books of state agencies.
He also said he supports complete privatization of liquor stores and allowing gas drilling on state-owned land. He would steer that money, he says, toward the state’s pension crisis.Get breaking news, weather and traffic on the go. Download our News App and our Weather App for your phone and tablet.