Pennsylvania's state House majority leader, Mike Turzai, told top Republican Party officials this week he plans to run for a U.S. House seat in southwestern Pennsylvania, two party activists said Friday.
Turzai is informing key people of his decision before he makes a public announcement, according to the party activists. They spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be named talking about the subject before Turzai announces his candidacy.
It's not clear whether Turzai will resign his state House leadership post or seat to run for the U.S. House. It is legal for Turzai to run for both his state House seat at the same time he runs for U.S. House, but it is not legal to serve in both at the same time.
Regardless, it appears likely that he will face a primary opponent who narrowly lost a 2010 run for Congress.
Asked about his candidacy by telephone Friday morning, Turzai said he was in a meeting and couldn't talk. Turzai, of Allegheny County, would run for the 12th District seat whose boundaries were dramatically redrawn in December in a once-a-decade process that was controlled this time by Turzai and other top Republicans.
Its new boundaries combine portions of districts currently represented by two Democratic incumbents, Mark Critz and Jason Altmire. It includes all or portions of six counties, stretching from the Ohio border through Pittsburgh's northern suburbs where Turzai lives and east to Johnstown and its surroundings.
Registered Democrats heavily outnumber Republicans in the new 12th District — 52 percent to 38 percent — but voters there lean conservative, having supported Republican John McCain over Democrat Barack Obama by 10 percentage points in the 2008 presidential race, according to data provided by state legislative staff.
Turzai, 52, joined the state House in 2001 and began serving as House majority leader a year ago. This would be his second run for the U.S. House; he lost to incumbent Democrat Ron Klink in a race for the 4th District in 1998.
Critz and Altmire are both running for the Democratic nomination. The primary is April 24 and Jan. 24 is the first day for candidates to circulate nomination petitions. To get their name on ballots, the candidates must gather enough signatures to qualify no later than Feb. 14.
Critz has represented the current 12th District since 2010, succeeding the late John Murtha. Altmire has represented the 4th District since 2007. Under Pennsylvania's newly drawn map of congressional districts, Altmire's current seat is essentially eliminated to account for the fact that Pennsylvania grew more slowly than the rest of the country over the past decade and, as a result, lost a seat in Congress.
Republican Keith Rothfus, a lawyer who narrowly lost to Altmire in 2010, said Friday that he plans to run in the 12th District, even though his house falls just three blocks outside its boundary. He said he has raised $250,000 for the campaign and his volunteers who helped him in 2010 are ready to help again.
Rothfus said that he will run for the GOP nomination, regardless of Turzai's candidacy.
"I prefer that he did not run, I could use the money in the general election," Rothfus said. "But we are running, full steam ahead."
While there is no requirement that a U.S. House member live in the district he or she represents, Rothfus said he plans to move into the 12th District in the summer. Under the redrawn map, he lives in the 18th District represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy.