Did York’s Senator Wagner try to influence race to replace Vance?

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – It was a meeting at the Capitol cafeteria last month and lots more than food was on the table, according to York lawyer Scott Harper.

“It just seemed a little weird, a little fishy,” Harper recalled from his West York law office of the meeting with political operatives.

He said offers were being tossed about.

“Are you interested in judgeships? Can we help you with that? I said no. Just because I’m a lawyer doesn’t mean I want to progress on to judge,” Harper said.

Scott Harper
Scott Harper

What Harper wants, he says, is to replace retiring Senator Pat Vance (R-Cumberland/York). He’s one of four Republican candidates in the race that will be decided in the April 26 primary. Harper and Representative Mike Regan are from York County. Jon Ritchie and Brice Arndt are challenging from Cumberland County.

Harper, a virtual unknown among the three better-known candidates, says that meeting in the cafeteria was with political operatives of Senator Scott Wagner (R-York) who supports Regan. After declining help with a judgeship, Harper says he was offered government legal work in exchange for exiting the race. He says he turned that down, too.

“Me being out helps Mike Regan,” Harper said because Regan would be the only candidate from York. “With Brice Arndt being in, helps Mike Regan. I think it’s a manipulation on possibly Scott Wagner’s behalf.”

Not so, Wagner says.

“The allegation that I made a suggestion that somebody pull out of the race is completely false,” Wagner said, though the senator confirms that he met briefly with Harper. He also confirmed that his chief-of-staff, Jason High, was present at the cafeteria meeting. Wagner denies that any promises were made to Harper.

“I think somebody better be very careful because, frankly, if it’s my word against his,” Wagner said. “If he wants to continue and he wants to defame me then we’re going down a different road.”

Wagner now heads the Senate Republican Campaign Committee. Just two years ago he railed against the SRCC for trying to block his candidacy and clear the field for his opponent, Ron Miller. Wagner’s TV ad in 2014 contained this sentence, “Let’s send a message together that we aren’t settling for their handpicked candidates and backroom deals any longer.”

Harper says it wasn’t in a backroom, but there was an offered deal in the cafeteria.

“That’s a little hypocritical,” Harper said.

In politics, of course, there’s often intrigue and unseen motivations. While Harper’s exit may help Regan, his getting into the race in the first place likely helps Ritchie and Arndt. Is it possible he was put up to running just to siphon votes from Regan? Harper says no, Wagner has his doubts.

“He’s completely non-factor,” Wagner said. “I don’t know why he’s running in the race. The guy doesn’t stand a shot to win.”

“I wish there wasn’t so much manipulation behind the scenes,” Harper said. “You don’t know where it’s coming from. Who’s your ally? Who’s your enemy? You don’t know.”

Regan denies any knowledge of any offers to Harper to exit the race. He is, however, challenging the validity of Harper’s signatures. That will be decided in court Wednesday morning in Harrisburg.

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