State House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, has changed his mind and won't 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 persuaded to run by Gov. Tom Corbett.
He told reporters Tuesday he wants to stay in his leadership role in Harrisburg, and sources said his decision was complicated by the refusal of fellow Republican candidate Keith Rothfus to exit the race.
"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 said. "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.
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 promised "to support whoever the Republican candidate is" in the 12th District seat.
In an interview Mr. Rothfus lauded the work Mr. Turzai is doing in Harrisburg and said he looks "forward to working with Mike and the governor and the whole slate this year to increase our majority in Washington, and bring Pennsylvania into the GOP [presidential] column for the first time since 1988."
Mr. Altmire's campaign manager, Angela Ruslander, said the Turzai decision showed "what we have long known and what other polls have shown: that Jason Altmire is going to win his primary and Mike Turzai wouldn't beat Altmire, even in the district Turzai drew for himself."
Tim McNulty: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1581. Laura Olson: email@example.com or 717-787-4254. Follow the Early Returns blog at www.post-gazette.com/earlyreturns or on Twitter at @EarlyReturns.