HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai’s plan to run for governor is gathering dust while he’s embroiled in an increasingly ugly budget stalemate that shows no signs of ending.
The Allegheny County Republican told party members and leaders in May he was seriously considering running, but he has kept a low profile in recent weeks. He did not respond to requests for comment Friday through his office.
If he does not run, it would surprise few people: Turzai announced his candidacy for lieutenant governor in 2006, then dropped out. And in 2012, he told confidantes he would run for a U.S. House seat, but changed his mind.
Turzai suggested he’d seek the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s bid for a second term in next year’s election. Labor Day, after a budget bill is settled, would be a more appropriate time to announce his candidacy, Turzai told reporters.
However, Labor Day has come and gone, and a fight over how to plug a $2.2 billion budget gap has unexpectedly dragged on more than two months past the July 1 start of the state government’s fiscal year.
Turzai’s longtime campaign consultant, Mark Harris, had no comment about Turzai’s plans. Party officials, Republican activists and rival campaigns have heard little from Turzai, and are wondering what he will do.
“That’s what a lot of people are waiting for, just to see what his decision is going to be,” said David Dumeyer, the Lancaster County Republican chairman.
There is no sign that he is fundraising for a gubernatorial race, hiring staff or mounting a digital campaign, Republican campaign consultants say. The primary election is May 15, and the deadline to file petitions to get on the ballot is March 6, less than six months away.
Turzai, 58, joined the House in 2001 and became speaker in 2015.
Jim Roddey, a longtime friend and former chairman of the Allegheny County Republican Party, said Turzai still intended to run when he last talked to him about a month ago.
But, Roddey said, Turzai has been under a lot of pressure because of the budget stalemate, and he now suspects t Turzai is reconsidering running.
Roddey said the longer Turzai waits to formally announce his campaign the further he will drop behind other declared Republican candidates — York County state Sen. Scott Wagner and former health care systems consultant Paul Mango of suburban Pittsburgh.
“He’s allowing the other candidates to get endorsements and backing,” Roddey said. “The longer you wait, the more difficult it is to overcome that.”
Dave Majernik, the vice chairman of the Allegheny County Republican Party, said Turzai spoke to a Plum Borough GOP committee event in suburban Pittsburgh on Aug. 27.
Turzai was invited because he was viewed as a potential gubernatorial candidate, Majernik said.
Turzai spoke about the state budget situation, but did not say for certain whether he was running for governor, Majernik said.
“My guess is that if he didn’t intend to run, he probably would not have come,” Majernik said.