House Speaker Turzai will run for gov­er­nor

The Citizens' Voice - - Local / State - BY MARK SCOL­FORO AND MARC LEVY

WEX­FORD — Penn­syl­va­nia’s Repub­li­can House Speaker Mike Turzai, a leader of anti-tax and so­cial con­ser­va­tives who has helped drive aus­ter­ity in state bud­get­ing, will run for gov­er­nor.

Turzai, 58, told The As­so­ci­ated Press on Tues­day that he will seek the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion in May’s pri­mary elec­tion to chal­lenge Demo­cratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who is run­ning for a sec­ond fouryear term.

In an in­ter­view in a Wex­ford diner, Turzai called him­self a “re­former with re­sults.” But, he said, “to re­ally make a dif­fer­ence you have to be gov­er­nor, and you need a strong leader in that po­si­tion.”

Turzai, who lives in subur­ban Pitts­burgh, is en­ter­ing what is now a four-per­son Repub­li­can pri­mary field. Turzai floated his po­ten­tial can­di­dacy last spring, but stayed quiet about his plans while em­broiled in this year’s months-long bud­get stale­mate.

Turzai is the most prom­i­nent bud­get hawk in Repub­li­can lead­er­ship, and has been a con­stant ad­ver­sary of Wolf ’s, par­tic­u­larly in the two drawn-out bud­get fights since Wolf be­came gov­er­nor in 2015. He even has been a bane to some Repub­li­cans, driv­ing a harder bar­gain when mod­er­ates or other con­ser­va­tives were ready to com­pro­mise on a big­ger tax in­crease to prop up the state’s deficit-rid­dled fi­nances.

Turzai will not run for his House seat if he wins the pri­mary, and in­tends to re­main speaker dur­ing the cam­paign, he said.

Also run­ning are York County state Sen. Scott Wag­ner and two first-time can­di­dates from the Pitts­burgh area: for­mer health care sys­tems con­sul­tant Paul Mango and lawyer Laura Ellsworth.

Rod Wilt, a Repub­li­can for­mer state law­maker who is a Turzai cam­paign vol­un­teer, said Turzai is “the only one that’s got­ten any­thing done.”

“I walk into a gro­cery store and I see beer and wine there and I think, ‘Mike did that,”’ Wilt said.

Turzai, a lawyer and for­mer county pros­e­cu­tor, has the most po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence of the can­di­dates, hav­ing been in of­fice since 2001. He is an ex­pe­ri­enced fundraiser, spear­head­ing the ef­fort for the House GOP, the cham­ber’s ma­jor­ity party since early 2011. That was the year Turzai be­came ma­jor­ity leader, be­fore tak­ing the speaker’s of­fice in 2015.

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