By Stephen Caruso
For the Pittsburgh Current
Ending a week of speculation, House Speaker Mike Turzai announced Thursday that he is retiring from the Pennsylvania House.
“Over the course of the last years, Lidia and I decided it might be time for someone else to take the torch,” Turzai said at a press conference at his McCandless district office.
An ambitious and powerful lawmaker, Turzai spent his five years as the chamber’s top officer championing conservative priorities, such as liquor privatization and school choice, while blocking budget compromises from Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf
He was first elected in a 2001 special election to the suburban district, north of Pittsburgh, before working his way to the top of the chamber over the course of his 19-year career in Harrisburg.
Turzai denied any reports that he is leaving the speakership to pursue other job offers, but added, “I’d like to be in the private sector.”
Turzai’s sudden retirement will kickstart a power struggle among senior Republicans while also creating a pick up opportunity for Democrats hoping to flip the House in November.
The 28th House District, which Turzai represents, includes the affluent northern suburbs of Pittsburgh — such as Franklin Park, McCandless, and Marshall Township — which have rapidly trended blue since President Donald Trump’s 2016 victory.
Turzai himself ran his closest race last year, winning with a nine-point margin. Wolf and Turzai ran about equal in the district, after Wolf lost in the district by 27 percentage points in 2014.
“I won by ten points, and it is not even a close consideration,” Turzai said of the latest challenge. “I would have won for reelection.”
Turzai was challenged previously by Democratic Challenger Emily Skopov. Skopov, who is running again for the seat, released the following statement Thursday morning:
“Since I first announced that I was running, I have focused on listening to the people of the 28th district in order to best represent them and their priorities. Speaker Turzai’s announcement does not change that. I’m running because we need representatives who can look past partisan politics and work across the aisle to focus on issues that matter most to the people of Pennsylvania.
“My priorities have always included properly investing in public education, shoring up our economy and infrastructure, creating jobs and opportunities for Pennsylvania’s working families, and making affordable health care available to every Pennsylvanian. Our citizens have been begging to be heard on so many critical issues, and if elected, I promise that they will be given the respect and consideration that they deserve. Regardless of my opponent, I am running to improve the lives of the people of the 28th district and to ensure that they receive representation in Harrisburg that is reflective of their needs. I wish Mike Turzai the best in his future endeavors.
Turzai is the 16th lawmaker to announce his retirement this year.
This breaking story will be updated
Strphen Caruso is a reporter for the Pennsylvania Capital-Star where this story first appeared.