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Pa. House Speaker Mike Turzai expected to resign before the end of his term, sources say

Jan Murphy of PennLive | The Patriot-News, Charles Thompson of PennLive | The Patriot-News and Cynthia Fernandez of Spotlight PA
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)

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HARRISBURG — The most powerful Republican in the Pennsylvania House, Mike Turzai, is expected to announce Wednesday he will resign from his post before the end of his final term, according to multiple legislative sources with knowledge of his plans.

Turzai, R-Allegheny, the House speaker, announced in January he would not seek reelection this fall and would instead pursue a job in the private sector. Sources, who requested anonymity because they were not allowed to discuss the speaker’s plans, said it’s not clear exactly when Turzai will depart, though he’s expected to outline a timetable Wednesday.

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Lawmakers on Tuesday said Turzai told members his family is coming to the Capitol this week for an announcement. In a brief interview, Turzai said he wants to have his family present when he shares some remarks with the House, though he declined to provide more details.

“It’s an opportunity to speak to the members who have been my colleagues and friends from both sides of the aisle and share some heartfelt recollections and lessons I think we learned in working together to make Pennsylvania better,” Turzai said early Tuesday evening.

Several media reports and sources have speculated that Turzai will take an executive position inside Essential Utilities, Inc., a Bryn Mawr-based company that this year acquired Peoples Gas of Pittsburgh. That company was formerly known as Aqua America Inc., a major Turzai donor whose CEO, Chris Franklin, is a close friend of the lawmaker.

A lawyer who served as an assistant district attorney in Allegheny County, Turzai was first elected to the state House in 2001 in a special election. He rose to majority leader in 2010 before being chosen to serve as speaker in 2015.

Turzai is a staunch supporter of limited government, pushing for legislation that would privatize the state’s liquor stores and increase taxpayer support for private and religious schools. He vehemently opposes abortion access and championed several bills that were met with Gov. Tom Wolf’s veto pen.

The two men have repeatedly found themselves at odds over Wolf’s proposals to raise the minimum wage or institute a shale tax.

Turzai has also raised substantive funds for Republican candidates and made a few attempts at higher office himself over the years. That includes a bid for governor in 2018 abandoned after the Republican party endorsed another candidate, then-state Sen. Scott Wagner, R- York County.

In January, Turzai said he was retiring after consulting with his family about the future.

“It’s time for someone else to run in this particular seat, and shortly, it will be time for some of my colleagues to take the mantles of leadership in the House Republican Caucus,” he said.

He soon endorsed veteran Rob Mercuri to take his Western Pennsylvania seat, largely considered to be a suburban battleground for Democrats this fall. With some ballots left to be counted, Mercuri will likely face Democrat Emily Skopov, who unsuccessfully challenged Turzai in 2018, this November.

“Mike Turzai is unquestionably one of the giants in the 40 years that I’ve been in Harrisburg,” said lobbyist and former Senate leadership staffer Mike Long. “He is one of the few people that was both the political leader and the legislative leader of their caucus.”

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