HARRISBURG, Pa. (KDKA/AP) — 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.
WATCH LIVE: Turzai’s New Conference —
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.
The Republican from Allegheny County says representing the people of southwestern Pennsylvania has been the pride of a lifetime.
“One of the most difficult parts of public service is watching so many colleagues have difficult times in terms of keeping the family together because these jobs are difficult, they’re challenging. A lot of travel, a lot of time away from home,” said Turzai. “It’s a hard reality; and yet, we run for office to make life better for families, and trade – like many of our colleagues in other professions – trade precious time for one more term. A last term that never really seems to come. Well, for me, here it is.”
Many of the men and women with whom he has served were in his McCandless field office for the official announcement. That made the speaker emotional.
“It was heartwarming, touching, uplifting. You know, I love those folks,” said Turzai.
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.
They suggested that Turzai is fleeing a tough reelection campaign in a changing district and the prospect of losing the speaker’s job next year when Democrats take control.
“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.
The deadline for his 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.
In a one-on-one conversation with KDKA’s Rick Dayton, Turzai say she hopes for a position in the private sector where he can continue the work he has done since being elected in 2001.
“The opportunity to help grow a successful business operation and to make sure the jobs stay in Pennsylvania and that they are good-paying jobs and that it is done well,” said Turzai. “I’ve been talking about that my entire career.”
What advice does the Speaker have for those men and women who will take his place in Harrisburg?
“Stay positive. Stay on message. Know what you stand for.” Turzai said. “Reach out to work with people. If you can’t, you may not find agreement on one issue, but you might find agreement on another issue.”
Speaker Turzai says he plans to finish his term as Representative for the 28th District and will finish his term as Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Turzai became 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.
PA House Speaker Mike Turzai announces he will not seeak re-election for his 28th District seat. “Time for someone else to carry the torch” in the PA House. Has been in office since 2002, Speaker since 2015 pic.twitter.com/3zka4tiRil
— Rick Dayton (@rickdayton) January 23, 2020
As speaker for all five years during Gov. Tom Wolf’s time in office, Turzai has been the Legislature’s strongest adversary to the Democrat, driving austerity in budget-making.
He was a critical ally for the 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.
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