House GOP caucus elects leaders

Republicans - who won majority control of the state House on election day - elected their new leadership team today, naming Rep. Sam Smith of Jefferson County as their speaker-designate and Rep. Mike Turzai of Allegheny County as the House Majority leader.

Smith and Turzai, who will lead a caucus that holds a 112-91 majority in the chamber, pledged to promote fiscal conservatism, help restore jobs and bring integrity and openness to government.

It is the first time in almost five years that Republicans will control the lower chamber and it will be the first time since 2002 that both chambers of the legislature and the governor's office in Pennsylvania will be in the hands of the GOP.

Smith, 55, was first elected in 1986 and has served as GOP floor leader since 2003. The Punxsutawney native, a graduate of Penn State University, took over the seat held by his father, Eugene “Snuffy” Smith, since 1964.

Turzai, 51, who was elected in 2001, said he would run a smoother, more disciplined and more predictable operation then the Democrats have over the past four years.

Other leaders elected Tuesday are Rep. Stan Saylor of York County, whip; Rep. Bill Adolph of Delaware County, Appropriations Committee chairman; and Rep. Sandra Major of Susquehanna County, caucus chairwoman.  Rep. Dave Reed of Indiana County is the new policy chairman, Rep. Dick Stevenson of Mercer County was elected caucus administrator, and Rep. Mike Vereb of Montgomery County was picked to be caucus secretary.

All positions except speaker take effect Dec. 1. Smith must be formally elected by the full House on Jan. 4.

House Democratic elections take place on Nov. 16. Speaker Keith McCall of Carbon County is retiring. Majority Leader Todd Eachus, D-Luzerne, was defeated last week. Rep. Frank Dermody of Allegheny County, is widely considered the leading candidate for minority leader. The contest for minority whip is expected to include Reps. Mike Gerber of Montgomery County, Mike Hanna of Clinton County, Joe Preston of Allegheny County and Jennifer Mann of Lehigh County.

Rep. Dwight Evans of Philadelphia, the current Appropriations Committee chairman, may also face a challenge.


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