Scott Wagner owned some laundromats back in the 1980s, and sometimes the coin slots jammed.

Quarters would get bent out of shape, and so would the customers if they inserted money and a machine wouldn't start.

In that scenario, Wagner told his employees to return the customer's four quarters and give them a free wash.

"It's all about building customer loyalty," he said. "We want to hear from the people."

And that's the kind of senator he wants to be for the constituents of the 28th District, he said.

While the Republican businessman is widely known as a vocal critic of his party, he banked his campaign on the support of the people instead of the party. That, he said, won't stop when he takes office.

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The presumed senator-elect has claimed victory from a territory most oft the domain of township auditors and fictional characters — the write-in campaign. The sheer number of write-in ballots was nearly double those cast for both candidates who appeared on the ballot for Tuesday's special election.

While officials just started counting the write-in votes on Thursday, they're expecting Wagner's total to far surpass Mickey Mouse, Superman and ballot-listed candidates Republican Ron Miller and Democrat Linda Small.

Wagner ran a tireless campaign that started with his candidacy announcement in September, ever strategizing, crafting positions, writing and answering emails and taking calls from anyone who called him.

At the polls Tuesday, voters said approachability and responsiveness were among the Wagner traits that won them. York Township Republican Monica Seitz ended up manning a poll for Wagner because she thought he seemed like a guy who could get things done; he actually took her call and answered her questions, and even mailed her literature to follow up, she said.

And that's perhaps one of the ways Wagner was able to build a network of supporters capable of carrying him to an unlikely victory as an outsider running a write-in campaign against an established Republican.

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As owner of Penn Waste trash contractor and holding stakes in other area businesses, Wagner credits his business background for his tenacity when sights are set. After results of Tuesday's election were in, his brief celebration ended with a proclamation he would immediately begin a strategy for the May 20 primary and lay the groundwork for his entry into the Senate.

He woke up around 5 Wednesday morning, he said, to start the process of answering about 500 emails and 200 text messages he had received overnight.

By Thursday morning, he was touring the office of resigned Sen. Mike Waugh and trying to determine how and where to staff offices.

"I'll be hitting the ground at about 120 miles per hour," he said. "The key for me is to surround myself with the right people."

He'll be meeting with existing staff in Waugh's old offices to determine whether any of the staff members there would fit his vision for positions such as chief of staff, legislative staffer, and secretary or assistant, he said.

He wants his staff to be approachable and capable of conveying information clearly, he said.

"You have to paint the picture to people," he said. "You really have to boil it down and keep it simple so people can understand it, and I don't think Harrisburg does a great job of that."

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Wagner ran on a platform of smaller government and has criticized the number of legislative staff in Harrisburg, but he said he is considering opening a new satellite office in the southern part of his district to accommodate the population growth there.

He said the only remuneration he'll be taking from the position is the $84,012 yearly salary. He won't be taking the pension or car and meal allowances. He won't claim mileage and he doesn't need the healthcare benefits, he said.

"If I wanted to turn expenses in, I'd have to sit down and fill out a report, and I don't have the time for that and I'm not going to nickel and dime the taxpayers."

Once election results are confirmed, Wagner will be sworn in and fill the seat through the end of the Nov. 30 session. If elected to a full four-year term in the November election, he would limit his service to two full terms, he said.

Wagner said he has already positioned his business for success in his absence, having spent most of the past few years focused on politics instead of the day-to-day operations.

"For me to walk away from Penn Waste is not an issue," he said.

— Reach Christina Kauffman at