The battle for the 28th Senate seat will post record-breaking spending for state Legislature races in York County and possibly across the state, with expenditures from one candidate already more than four times the typical cost locally.
Republican write-in candidate Scott Wagner has spent more than six times the amount of his GOP competitor in the March 18 special election for the vacant seat.
Wagner, who owns Penn Waste and is funding much of the campaign with personal contributions, spent about $333,000 on his campaign between Jan. 1 and March 3, according to finance reports filed with the Department of State on Friday. He said Wednesday he was expecting to spend "several hundred thousands" on the race, which he believed to be on par with spending on other races throughout the state.
But a non-partisan analyst said spending $333,000 before the primary is "not the norm by any means."
A typical state Senate race in Pennsylvania "could be upward of $100,000 in a really good competitive Senate race," said Christopher Borick, a non-partisan analyst, professor of political science and director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion. "And I want to make clear, that's on the high end."
But a wealthy, motivated candidate can drive costs as high as he or she is willing, Borick said.
"When somebody has their own cash, all bets are off," he said. "But you usually don't see that kind of figure in a state House or Senate race."
Typical cost: Bob Wilson, who chairs the York County Republican Committee, said Senate races in York have typically cost about $70,000, though they generally haven't been as heated as the battle playing out between Wagner and Rep. Ron Miller, R-Jacobus.
Wilson said he expects the cost of the Senate election to surpass the cost of the 2012 U.S. House race "by a long shot." Winner Rep. Scott Perry, R-York County, spent $433,975 on campaigning for that whole year, according to the Federal Election Commission.
The introduction of Wagner's money has changed politics locally, Wilson said.
"I think this is a turning point for campaigning in York County," he said. "Without some serious campaign finance reforms put in place, only the very wealthy will be able to afford to run for ... local races."
The competition: Miller's campaign spent about $45,000 for the period. But the candidate got a big boost in in-kind contributions, including $61,750 in television air time from the Pennsylvania Senate Republican Campaign Committee and $69,147 in campaign literature and postage from the Republican Party of Pennsylvania.
Miller carried over $25,844 from an earlier reporting period, raised $38,305 in contributions and ended the period with a cash balance of $19,291.
Miller took in thousands in contributions from political action committees, including $1,000 from the Standardbred Breeders Association of PA, $1,000 from Exelon PAC and $1,000 from UGI State PAC.
Wagner carried $238,524 from the last report, took in contributions of $147,988 (which included $100,000 from the candidate) and ended the period with a cash balance of $52,970.
His in-kind contributions totaled $1,033, which represented a gift of billboard trucks from Darrah's Auto & Recycling. His only PAC contribution was $75 from the Kitchen Table Patriots.
Expenditures included more than $120,000 in television advertising, with the remainder spent on billboards, online ads, office rent, campaign workers, postage and mailers, and video production.
Democrat Linda Small is trailing, having raised only $1,425.
— Reach Christina Kauffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.