MANCHESTER, Pa. (AP) - Scott Wagner, the maverick York County state senator who made millions in the trash-hauling industry, said Wednesday he will run for Pennsylvania’s Republican nomination for governor, casting himself as a hard-charging businessman who will work tirelessly to squeeze savings from government, improve the economy and make trains run on time.
His announcement to challenge first-term Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in 2018 was a formality: Wagner, 61, has said for weeks that he would run. While he became the first Republican to get into the governor’s race, others could jump in with the primary 16 months away.
Wagner made the formal announcement at one of his Penn Waste facilities in Manchester, just miles from Wolf’s home in York County, and suggested he would put millions of his own money into his campaign. He embarked afterward on a two-day, six-event schedule around the state, where he is a virtual unknown outside of his home turf.
In the capital and around York, Wagner is known for his brash personality and tough talk, and he showed a willingness to take that on the campaign trail.
“I know what I’m all about, I know what I stand for, I know what the issues are,” Wagner told reporters. “I’m running hard. I am going to be the next governor. Take that to the bank.”
Wagner’s push for conservative fiscal policies has sowed friction with public-sector labor unions and Democrats, and he has made waves in Harrisburg over his criticism of fellow Republicans he didn’t see as conservative enough.
The American Conservative Union rated Wagner as among the Senate’s five most conservative senators.
He has been in office since 2014, when he won a write-in bid over the GOP’s hand-picked candidate, a veteran state lawmaker, in an expensive and bruising primary in which establishment Republicans sought to defeat him.
Even before he ran for state Senate, he donated heavily to conservative candidates and causes, even if it meant challenging sitting Republican public officials. He continued to spend heavily on Republican campaigns in 2016.
He is perhaps most motivated by his disgust with what he characterizes as a feckless and unresponsive state government that taxes and regulates business owners to death.
He attacked Wolf as the primary obstacle, calling him a “failed governor” who has done nothing to change that. Wagner cited a state unemployment rate that has risen on Wolf’s watch and a fiscal condition that, he said, has worsened under Wolf.
Wolf’s campaign declined to respond to Wagner’s attacks. The state Democratic Party framed Wagner as someone who would balance budgets by cutting aid to public schools and opposing more money for programs to fight the state’s wave of heroin and prescription-drug addiction.
Wagner repeatedly contrasted his business experience with Wolf’s, calling Wolf a seventh-generation business owner who doesn’t understand operations. Wagner characterized himself as a self-made business owner who learned to work hard on the family farm and remains hands-on enough to clean the Penn Waste bathrooms if they need it.
Wolf, meanwhile, has a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College and a PhD. from MIT; Wagner did not graduate from college and “barely” got through high school, he said.
Wagner has opposed Wolf’s proposed tax increases to patch a deficit-ridden budget he inherited, and repeated Wednesday that the state has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. Wagner on Wednesday would not commit to a pledge not to raise taxes, but he also professed confidence in his ability to control spending or find savings so that no tax increase would be needed.
On policy, Wagner occasionally goes against GOP orthodoxy.
For instance, on Wednesday, he said he supports legislation to increase the minimum wage and outlaw discrimination in employment and housing based on someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Both ideas are supported by Wolf, but have stalled in the GOP-controlled Legislature.
Wagner built two municipal waste-hauling companies, and currently owns the $65 million Penn Waste operation. The company has contracts with dozens of south-central Pennsylvania municipalities.
Wagner said he will not run again for the Senate.
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