Baer: The trashman cometh

Pennsylvania Sen. Scott Wagner speaks during the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference in the Sheraton Hotel in Philadelphia on June 20, 2015.

It's no insult to call Scott Wagner a trashman.

He owns the title. It's what he does. It's how he made his millions.

And it's no stretch to suggest his politics track his profession. He wants to haul away the collected garbage of bureaucracy - as trashman-in-chief.

So for two days, Wednesday and Thursday, the maverick, rabble-rouser first-term Republican state senator plans a route across the state to formally announce a run against incumbent Democrat Tom Wolf for governor in 2018.

It's been expected. And he's got reasons.

Spending is out of control. In Harrisburg, metaphorically, "the bathrooms and toilets need cleaning, and nobody wants to do it"; state government is "plagued with entrenched bureaucracy" and it's "starving" for leadership.

"I'm gonna rock their world," he says.

The 61-year-old York County trash, trucking, and recycling magnate (he owns three companies with 600 employees) already is a political force.

He made state history in 2014 as a write-in winner in a Senate race in which his party opposed him.

Through aggressive, some say bullying, tactics, he forced out a moderate Senate leader, now Delco Judge Dominic Pileggi.

Then, with his checkbook, he backed select conservative candidates to increase the Senate GOP to its first veto-proof majority in nearly 70 years.

More recently, he led a move that shuttered some state Unemployment Compensation call centers, which led to 500-plus layoffs. Wagner blamed Wolf, saying the centers lacked "fiscal responsibility."

"I'm here to change the status quo," Wagner tells me in a pre-announcement-tour interview.

He's a conservative, antiunion workaholic who travels in a "mobile office," a chauffeured van with a desk. He hates government regulations and snipes at teacher salaries: "Teachers in my district average $88,000 for 180 days" of work.

He's a self-made multimillionaire with no college degree. But he's not predictably hard-right, and he's certainly no insider.

He supports increasing the minimum wage. He backs enacting laws against LGBT employment and housing discrimination. He won't seek a second Senate term. And he thinks lawmakers shouldn't get automatic raises: "We don't do that in the private sector."

If you're thinking, hmm, successful, outsider, brash businessman sounds familiar, you're right, though he insists he was Trump-like before we saw what Trump's like.

Wagner is to announce his candidacy at six small businesses, including a bakery and a doughnut factory, in six counties but not in Philly.

Three (Blair, Schuylkill, York) are Republican; three (Bucks, Erie, Westmoreland) are Democratic. But five of the six voted Trump. And Clinton only narrowly won Bucks.

This is no scheduling accident.

Yet Wagner says he'll stump in every county and have full-time staff in Philly. He also says he'll write his campaign a "seven-figure" check.

Why is he out front a year ahead of time?

Likely to scare off others, build his name recognition, and keep voters who gave the state to Trump interested in nontraditional office seekers looking to shake thing up.

Oh, and he's not above trash-talk.

He says Wolf "has no leadership or vision." He says, though several others are considered potential GOP candidates, he doesn't care who else runs: "I'm a racehorse. Ever see a racehorse out front looking back to see who else is there?"

And as to Paul Mango, a wealthy Western Pennsylvania businessman who the Inquirer reports is looking to run as a Republican? Wagner says: "Word is he's got $10 million to spend. He'll lose, and some consultant will get $2 million of it."

Look, next cycle's a long way off. Wagner is certain to have primary company and Wolf's certain to offer a strong reelect bid.

What's uncertain is whether the state, after one year-plus of President Trump, still wants leadership next time akin to the type it wanted last time.