Pennsylvania's GOP House speaker to step down at end of term

By KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio/AP) — Pennsylvania's Speaker of the House Mike Turzai announced Thursday he will step down at the end of his term, ending the career of a conservative force in state government in a critical year when Democrats are aiming to take control of the chamber.

For the last 19 years, Turzai has served in the state House as a representative of Allegheny County. The Republican has served as the speaker since 2015.

Turzai, 60, made the announcement at a news conference at his office in his suburban Pittsburgh district, along with his wife and youngest son. He occasionally teared up when he described his decision to leave the job.

“I will not be asking my neighbors to nominate me for another term, or to elect me for another term,” he said. “While I won't be running for re-election, I will be doing everything that I can to help this community and state that I love.

“Like many of our colleagues in other professions, we trade precious time — sometimes in years and decades — for one more term. A last term that never really seems to come,” he continued. “It's time to let another voice to step up here in the 28th District and be heard.”

Turzai emerged as a force for fiscal and social conservatism in state government, as well as a powerhouse fundraiser for the House Republican majority. He may be best known for his stance against the legalization of medical marijuana, his anti-abortion bills, his opposition to the natural gas severance tax, and the privatization of the state-controlled wine and liquor system.

He was embraced heartily by conservative groups and business associations but disliked by Democrats, labor unions and liberal groups.

Democrats suggested that Turzai is fleeing a tough reelection campaign and the prospect of losing the speaker's job next year when Democrats potentially take control. 

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 even when it put him at odds with Senate Republican leaders and moderates in his caucus.

But Turzai said he wants to continue doing what he’s been doing, just from a more discreet seat. 

“I'd like to be in the private sector,” he said. “I'd like to be on that other side of that line, where I'm actually in the middle of it, to create those jobs, see an organization thrive, and to have people just do their best to take care of their families, and give back to their communities.

“I made this decision knowing I left it all on the field,” he added.

His term expires Nov. 30.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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