YORK (AP) – After a bruising and expensive campaign, voters in a York County state Senate district on Tuesday backed a conservative trash company executive’s maverick write-in bid over the Republican party’s hand-picked candidate, a veteran state representative.
Penn Waste Inc. President Scott Wagner claimed victory in a special election to finish the term of retired Sen. Mike Waugh, who resigned in January and was named executive director of the state Farm Show Complex and Expo Center.
With 86 percent of precincts reporting, 47 percent of voters cast ballots for a write-in candidate, 27 percent voted for Republican State Rep. Ron Miller and 26 percent backed Democrat Linda Small. Miller and Small both conceded to Wagner.
The campaign was marked by two weeks of nasty TV ads and mailings exchanged between Wagner and Miller, an eight-term representative who had the backing of the party.
Wagner had complained that Waugh’s abrupt resignation in January and the party’s nomination of Miller to run in a special election were a coordinated effort to sink his candidacy in the 28th Senatorial District.
Republican party officials deny a conspiracy against Wagner but pointed out that he has contributed heavily to challengers to sitting Republican lawmakers he didn’t view as conservative enough.
Also on the ballot was Small, a retired Navy master chief petty officer. Democrats hoped Wagner and Miller would split the GOP vote and deliver a victory to Small in the Republican-leaning district.
Before the election, the Republicans held a 26-23 majority in the state Senate, the narrowest in two decades.
The special election decided who will fill the seat until Nov. 30. Regardless of Tuesday’s outcome, there will be a May 20 primary and Nov. 4 general election to decide who will serve the next four-year term that begins in January.
Waugh had represented the 28th District since 1999.