Scott Wagner made history in Pennsylvania this week, by being the first person to win a Pennsylvania Senate race as a write-in candidate. By itself, that is quite an accomplishment. What has people outside the Commonwealth buzzing about this is the fact that he's also a Tea Party candidate.
It's a tempting concept, especially in the wake of the Florida special election that put a Republican in a seat in spite of his opponent outspending him. However, these two races are definitely a case of "apples and oranges." One elementary principle about politics is definitely in play in Pennsylvania - all politics are local. Wagner was not running on national issues, like Obamacare. His entire campaign focused on fiscal issues that are particular to Pennsylvania.
The Commonwealth is over-represented in both its House and Senate, so any candidate running on a promise of not taking a state pension or healthcare is well-received. Add to that the personal promise of limiting himself to two terms, and Wagner had already elevated himself to the level of folk hero, since there are many "lifers" in both legislative chambers. Otherwise, the fact that he is for abolishing property taxes and replacing the revenue with sales tax on food and clothing - items that are currently exempted - and he was singing a tune that senior citizens definitely wanted to hear. That alone probably got him some votes from people that were actually opposed to the fact that he is for legalizing marijuana.
Pennsylvania, like many states across the country, is suffering under the burden of funding pensions for state employees, and remains mired in bureaucracy that is virtually guaranteeing that the pension debts alone will be unsustainable. Anyone that runs on a platform that promises to address those fiscal issues, either through restructuring taxation in any way, or through cutting governmental waste will be well-received. Bonus points will go to anyone that is serious about removing the property taxes statewide, because they are strangling the pocketbooks of the largest and most reliable voting bloc - senior citizens.
This special election is not an indicator for anyone running anywhere else, unless they are facing similar issues on the local level. So, yes this could be very meaningful for anyone looking at running for state or local offices, but not necessarily for anyone seeking a federal seat. Wagner is going to face a great deal of opposition on the floor of the senate, even from the Republicans. In order for his win to be meaningful, Pennsylvania would need to remove at least half of the incumbents with candidates just like him. It's a step in the right direction to see him win, but it's definitely not a sign of things to come.