State House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, is backing out of his plan to run for Congress in the new 12th District.
Mr. Turzai told Republican officials late last week that he was entering the race, saying he was convinced to run by Gov. Tom Corbett. Sources said he had second thoughts when fellow Republican Keith Rothfus refused to get out of the race, and figured he could do more work in his leadership role in the General Assembly than he could as one of hundreds of legislators on Capitol Hill.
"I've made a decision in talking with my family and my colleagues to stay here in my position as majority leader, not to run for Congress," Mr. Turzai told reporters this afternoon. "I was honored that the governor would ask me to consider running for Congress and offer his support, but I have to say, in the end, it's just exciting to be the leader of the House of Representatives here in the state and be able to move a successful agenda."
Mr. Rothfus, an Edgeworth attorney, lost to 4th District incumbent U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire, D-McCandless, in 2010. In congressional redistricting last month Republican mapmakers -- including Mr. Turzai -- combined that district with one held by U.S. Rep. Mark Critz, D-Johnstown.
The new district stretches from Beaver, Washington and Greene counties on the Ohio border through Westmoreland and Allegheny counties (except the immediate Pittsburgh area) to Somerset and Cambria counties.
Though Mr. Rothfus had a good showing two years ago, Mr. Turzai's entrance to the race would have vaulted it to national prominence, as his leadership position would favor him with built-in publicity and fundraising opportunities. Mr. Corbett also promised to help him raise money through the Republican Governors Association.
The governor thought Mr. Turzai was "the ideal candidate for that part of the state," the governor's political advisor, Brian Nutt, said last week.
There has been speculation that Mr. Corbett's endorsement could move Mr. Rothfus out of the race, but he is not easily bowed: he beat the better-known Mary Beth Buchanan, the former U.S. Attorney, in the GOP primary in 2010; and even though his home was drawn out of the 12th District last month, Mr. Rothfus vowed to move his family into it.
Mr. Turzai said he notified the governor of his decision today and that he was "outstanding and he really has been very, very supportive. I talked to him about a number of aspects before I undertook this endeavor."
Mr. Turzai promised "to support whoever the Republican candidate is" in the 12th District seat.