Turzai Viewed as Front Runner to Succeed Smith as Speaker
It may be very early, but political experts and lobbyists said state Rep. Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, is the odds-on favorite to be the next speaker of the state House of Representatives. Speaker Sam Smith, R-Jefferson, announced last week that he will not seek re-election in the November general election.
As majority leader, Turzai is not only next in line in House Republican leadership, he also appeals to a broad spectrum of members in his caucus, according to G. Terry Madonna of the Center for Politics & Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College.
"His conservative agenda appeals to both 25 to 30 [representatives] who are the Tea Party types and a core I would call the more practical conservatives," Madonna said. "He's done enough over his time as majority leader to appease both groups."
After the general election, the caucus that wins the majority elects the speaker from within its ranks, then the full House votes on the person put forth by the caucus. Historically, the House vote has been unanimous, or near unanimous, especially if the party in charge has had a strong majority. Republicans currently hold 111 seats in the 203-member House, and Madonna predicts that majority to hold or even strengthen.
Mark Singel, a former acting governor and now a lobbyist, also called Turzai the favorite to be the next speaker, calling him one of the hardest-working people in Harrisburg.
"He's very smart and has a very competent staff," Singel said. "He also has enough respect in the caucus to keep all the different agendas in line."
Insiders cite three members as potential challengers for the top spot: state Rep. Dave Reed, R-Indiana; state Rep. Stan Saylor, R-York; and state Rep. William Adolph, R-Delaware. But they say the three are more likely to battle it out for majority leader.
But Turzai is viewed as a prohibitive favorite for the speaker's chair.
"I really don't see anyone taking Mike on and beating him," said one long-time caucus staffer.