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Turzai says he'll keep speaker's job if he runs for governor

Written by Marc Levy, Associated Press | May 22, 2017 2:56 PM
Mike Turzai 600x340.jpg

Photo by Marie Cusick/WITF

House Speaker Mike Turzai.

(Harrisburg) -- Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai said Monday that he won't step down from his position atop the Republican-controlled chamber should he get into the race to challenge Democratic Governor Tom Wolf's re-election bid next year.

Turzai, R-Allegheny, said the question of whether he should remain as speaker and play a key role in negotiating high-profile legislation such as the budget while he runs for governor is "non-news."

"I haven't heard anybody asking the governor to resign to run for governor, and yet he's at the budget table," Turzai said during the question-and-answer session following his speech to the crowd at the Pennsylvania Press Club. "It's just one of those questions that somebody who wants to stir something up comes up with."

Turzai reiterated Monday that he is seriously considering running, a point he made in a letter to GOP state committee members earlier this month. Wolf is running for a second four-year term, and thus far has no apparent opposition in a Democratic Party primary next spring.

Two Republican candidates already are seeking the party's nomination, state Sen. Scott Wagner of York County and former health care consultant Paul Mango of suburban Pittsburgh.

Turzai called each man a "good person," but suggested he will put up his record as a Capitol insider in a campaign against their records in business or claims to outsider status.

"They recognize that change has to happen in Pennsylvania, but if you want to be able to actually get things done, you've got to be tenacious, and you have to know people, and you have to network, and you have to be principled, but pragmatic, and you have to know how to get votes," Turzai said. "And I think Pennsylvania is looking for somebody who has a history of getting stuff done, and I'm that person."

Turzai said it is early, historically speaking, to get into the race for governor, and that he is busy in the meantime still working on issues in the Capitol. Labor Day, after a budget bill is settled, would be a more appropriate time to announce his candidacy, he said.

That budget will pose a challenge for both Wolf and Turzai, with a two-year projected deficit of $3 billion looming. Turzai has been among the most fiscally conservative leaders in the Republican-controlled Legislature, even to the point of clashing with his party over how to handle the state's finances.

Turzai supports budget legislation that passed the House last month that would impose cuts in child care subsidies, prisons and medical care for the poor. It would hold the line on taxes and rely on new license fees from an expansion of casino gambling and private-sector wine and liquor sales.

Wolf's administration has said the plan would put about 1,500 state employees out of work, with prisons in line for the deepest job cuts, while the Republican-controlled Senate has rejected House proposals to sell more private-sector liquor licenses to balance the budget. Wolf proposed a tax package of $1 billion.

An earlier story appears below.

(Harrisburg) -- Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai says he won't step down from his position atop the Republican-controlled chamber should he get into the race to challenge Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's re-election bid next year.

The Allegheny County Republican spoke Monday at the Pennsylvania Press Club, and says he hasn't heard anyone ask Wolf resign to run for governor.

He says he's seriously considering running. He says he's working on a number of issues in the Capitol right now and is looking toward Labor Day as an appropriate time to announce his candidacy.

Two GOP candidates are already seeking the party's nomination, Republican state Sen. Scott Wagner of York County and former health care consultant Paul Mango of suburban Pittsburgh.

Wolf is running for a second four-year term.

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