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Pennsylvania’s GOP House speaker to retire after three terms

Marc Levy
Associated Press
House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, walks down a corridor at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., Friday, June 28, 2019. The final pieces in the legislative puzzle that makes up a $34 billion compromise state budget package were on their way Friday to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf after the Pennsylvania House wrapped up work with a flurry of votes. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai will not run for re-election, the Republican announced Thursday, in a critical election 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.

Turzai became speaker in 2015 after four years as House majority leader. In that decade, Turzai emerged as a force for fiscal and social conservatism in state government, as well as a powerhouse fundraiser for the House Republican majority.

Turzai’s 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.

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The deadline for his decision was approaching: Tuesday is the first day that candidates can circulate petitions to get on the April 28 primary ballot.

Turzai was first elected in 2001.

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.