What to Know
- Republican Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai says he will not run for reelection in a critical election year.
- “I've made this decision knowing I've left it all on the field," Turzai said.
- During his time in office, Turzai has emerged as a force for fiscal and social conservatism in state government, as well as a powerhouse fundraiser for the House Republican majority.
Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai will not run for reelection, the Republican announced Thursday, ending the career of a conservative force in state government in a critical year when Democrats are aiming to take control of the chamber.
Turzai, 60, made the announcement at a news conference at his office in his suburban Pittsburgh district with his wife and youngest son and a couple dozen supporters, occasionally tearing up when describing his decision to leave a job he said he loves.
However, he also described the long hours away from home and on the road, saying that serving in the job has been the privilege of a lifetime, but that it is time for someone else to take his place.
“I've made this decision knowing I've left it all on the field," Turzai said.
Turzai also seemed to put aside any talk of running for higher office, after pursuing — and then abandoning — bids for lieutenant governor, Congress and governor in the past 15 years.
Turzai was first elected in 2001, becoming speaker in 2015 after four years as House majority leader. He emerged as a force for fiscal and social conservatism in state government, as well as a powerhouse fundraiser for the House Republican majority.
Without someone ready to fill Turzai's big fundraising shoes, his departure could boost Democrats' efforts to win control of the chamber for the first time since 2010. Democrats also could put more effort into winning his district , once a solidly Republican bastion that is changing.
Democrats suggested that Turzai is fleeing a tough reelection campaign and the prospect of losing the speaker's job next year when Democrats take control. In the 2018 election, Democrats picked up 11 seats and are nine short of a majority in the 203-seat chamber.
“Mike Turzai called it quits today for one main reason — he knows his tenure as speaker is on borrowed time,” Leanne Krueger, chairwoman of the Pennsylvania House Democratic Campaign Committee, said in a statement.
Turzai's district itself backed Republican Donald Trump in 2016's presidential election by 9 percentage points. But top-of-the-ticket Democrats — Gov. Tom Wolf and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey — each won the district in 2018, Wolf by nearly 10 percentage points and Casey by 6 percentage points, according to figures provided by Democrats.
The deadline for Turzai's decision was approaching. Tuesday is the first day that candidates for public office in Pennsylvania can circulate petitions to get on the primary ballot, which traditionally is the cutoff for state lawmakers to decide whether to run again. His current term expires Nov. 30.
He was embraced heartily by conservative groups and business associations but disliked by Democrats, labor unions and liberal groups.
As speaker for all five years during Wolf's time in office, Turzai has been the Legislature's strongest adversary to the Democrat, driving austerity in budget-making even when it put him at odds with Senate Republican leaders and moderates in his caucus.
He was a critical ally for Pennsylvania's booming natural gas industry while championing abortion restrictions, taxpayer support for private and religious schools and privatization of the state-controlled wine and liquor system.