Originally published by the Associated Press: https://apnews.com/0cffef1a0e13b58e67b96d965854825b
Marc Levy and Ramesh Santanam
PITTSBURGH — 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.
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.
Turzai was first elected in 2001. He 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.
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.