Despite recent written and spoken suggestions that he’s in the Republican race for governor, I doubt House Speaker Mike Turzai actually will run.
Don’t get me wrong. I hope he does.
A three-way (at least) primary featuring longtime legislative insider Turzai, rabble-rousing first-term Sen. Scott Wagner, and outsider biz-guy Paul Mango offers a smorgasbord for voters and a cage match for media.
Turzai and Wagner, both high-voltage types, would be the main event. I’m seeing elbows and kneecaps. But I imagine Mango, a West Point grad turned Army Ranger, wouldn’t turn down a dance.
It’s almost too much to hope for.
Turzai sure sounds like he’s in. He wrote to state Republican committee folks saying he’s “seriously” considering. And Monday, he told a Pennsylvania Press Club lunch crowd, “I’m that person” Pennsylvania’s looking for to get things done.
Maybe he is: a Notre Dame grad, a Duke law grad, with a pro-growth, pro-jobs, low-tax, and end-the-booze-monopoly agenda that resonates with lots of voters.
He raises money like Iowans raise corn. And he knows a thing or two about government and politicians.
Problem is, Pennsylvanians have listed “government, politicians” as the state’s biggest problem in seven consecutive Franklin and Marshall College polls since August 2015.
So once Turzai thinks it through, once he gets past consultants looking to make money off him, I think some things could give him pause.
For one, know the last person elected Pennsylvania governor directly from the legislature?
That would be State Sen. George Leader, a York County Democrat elected governor in 1954 – more than six decades ago.
Know why nobody since? The legislature’s known for ineptness, greed, isolation, and often criminality. For someone (such as Turzai) who’s a 16-year incumbent, it’s not the best launching pad.
Then there’s the cycle he’d run. While early, it’s expected that 2018, because of you know who, favors Democrats, therefore Gov. Wolf.
Then there’s Wolf. While labeled “the most liberal governor in America” after calling for huge tax increases during his first year in office, he’s moved right in keeping with the times and Harrisburg’s political realities.
It seems to be working. Wolf’s F&M poll numbers this month (41 percent think he’s doing a good or excellent job) are higher than at any previous point in his term, higher than Gov. Tom Corbett’s at the same stage, and the same as Gov. Ed Rendell’s.
Corbett was not reelected; Rendell was.
Also, Turzai’s got some baggage, at least a carry-on or two, regarding comportment and job shopping.
He reportedly broke down in tears during a House Rules Committee meeting while voicing his opposition to legalizing medical marijuana in 2015. It became state law.
He gained national attention for bragging that a state voter ID law would help Mitt Romney win the presidency in 2012. Courts later killed the law.
He’s had a couple, three flings with chasing other offices. In 2006, he talked of running for lieutenant governor. He also talked about running Congress or seeking appointment as a U.S. attorney.
Finally, there’s the question of, if he runs for governor, does he also run for his North Hills Pittsburgh House seat? Doing so could anger some voters and party people.
Now, if through some miracle a sane/timely budget gets done that addresses nagging deficits and pension woes without raising broad-based taxes, Turzai benefits – though, so does Wolf.
I don’t pretend to know what 2018 brings for the GOP or Turzai or, for that matter, Wolf, since few can be considered safe in today’s political world.
But I do suggest the House speaker just might decide to remain the House speaker.