HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Mike Turzai had a few cups of coffee at the American Dream Diner and had already spoken with several reporters.
He was warmed up and fired up.
“Pennsylvania can really do so much better than it’s doing right now, and you really need to be governor to fully change it,” Turzai said in announcing his run for governor.
It took the Republican House Speaker from Allegheny County all of 10 seconds to explain why he’s in and Governor Tom Wolf should be out.
“He’s so disengaged. He’s so aloof. He’s so elitist, right? He’s gotta go,” Turzai said, speaking rapidly, perhaps from the coffee.
But before Turzai can go Wolf hunting, he will have to beat Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York), and fellow Pittsburghers Paul Mango and Laura Ellsworth in the May 15 primary.
“It’s a good field. I think my record of reform and accomplishment catapults me,” he said.
Will he step down as Speaker to run for governor?
“No,” he says firmly, clearly ready for the question. “Is the governor stepping down as governor to run for governor? Is Senator Wagner stepping down as a senator to run for governor?”
Being a leader means having a legislative record that can be scrutinized. He recently signed off on a state budget that borrows $1.5 billion. How is that fiscally conservative?
“You’re acting like it’s my plan. It wasn’t my idea,” Turzai said, adding that was the brainchild of the Senate and endorsed by Wolf to fill the one-time budget hole.
But it is Turzai’s idea to oppose bills that would tax Marcellus Shale drillers even though most Pennsylvanians and Wolf support that tax. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Turzai’s taken nearly a quarter-million dollars from the industry over 10 years.
“Dennis, oh my gosh, I’m for jobs,” he said emphatically of his extraction tax resistance and support of drilling. “This is a great opportunity in southwestern Pennsylvania. “Come out with me. It’s a game changer for people. It’s bringing activity to places where we didn’t have economic activity.”
Though he hugged and thanked the owners of the American Dream Diner, staffers say Turzai can be prickly behind the scenes.
The Wolf campaign insists he intentionally sabotaged budget negotiations to make the governor look bad and boost his own chances.
Final question: Do you have the temperament to be governor?
“I have the best temperament to be governor because I lead and I care,” he said. “I have a wife that loves me and kids that love me.”