Just when you thought the crowded field for Pennsylvania’s Republican gubernatorial primary couldn’t get any larger?
The former Speaker of the state House of Representatives made a late ask Friday to see if he could be added to the list of candidates for governor slated to appear before members of the Republican State Committee’s central caucus Saturday. Because Turzai missed the initial deadline to register, caucus chair Dick Stewart said he would be permitted to address the group at the end of the day.
Committee members present will then take a straw poll of candidate preferences in both the governor, lieutenant governor and U.S. Senate races, and separately indicate whether they think the state committee should even make an endorsement. Not including Turzai, 12 candidates have asked to speak in the governor’s field, eight for the Senate seat, and nine more for lieutenant governor.
PennLive’s attempts to reach Turzai Friday where not successful, so it’s unclear if he will be using the forum to officially launch his candidacy for governor or to say something else. But the request to Stewart jibes with a report from Pittsburgh television station WTAE earlier Friday that, citing “sources,” said Turzai is joining the race.
Turzai served in the state house from suburban Pittsburgh for 19 years, including five as House Speaker, before resigning two years ago to take a job as the chief legal officer at Peoples Gas.
Turzai is a significant name in state GOP circles because of his past roles and fundraising capability, and he had come to be seen as a strong defender of Republican principles during Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration.
But he has also irritated some top GOP leaders in recent years with what feels like constant vacillating between seeking higher office and not. As an example, he launched a campaign for governor in late 2017, only to pull out on the eve of the state committee’s endorsement of former state Sen. Scott Wagner in February 2018.
Through this winter and fall, party-affiliated sources told PennLive Friday , they had alternately heard that Turzai might try to run for Congress, that he was going to run for governor, and that he was going to endorse one of the GOP’s candidates already in the race.
Clarity may come Saturday.
The central caucus is the largest and first of the state GOP’s regional groups to vet the candidates. The 24 counties it comprises account for nearly 1.1 million registered Republican voters, as of Jan. 10, accounting for 32 percent of the GOP electorate statewide. Only registered Republicans can vote in the GOP primary, which is scheduled for May 17.
©2022 Advance Local Media LLC. Visit pennlive.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.