Pa. House Speaker Smith won't run again

Posted: February 13, 2014

HARRISBURG Saying "my heart isn't in it," Pennsylvania House Speaker Sam Smith announced Tuesday that he would not seek reelection.

His decision sets the stage for jockeying to replace the blunt-talking, cigar-smoking leader sometimes described as "the closer" for pushing through tricky, high-profile legislation.

In making his announcement in the Capitol newsroom, Smith, 58, a Republican from Jefferson County, said a number of factors played into his decision. High among them: "The desire to fight the fights as hard as you can has waned, and I have decided it was time to step aside."

It was not clear who would seek Smith's job as speaker. He said he believed House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) had worked hard enough to snag the position.

Since taking over the House seat once held by his father, Eugene "Snuffy" Smith, he has helped steer the 203-member chamber through knuckle-bruising legislative and political battles, as well as state criminal investigations that toppled five of his former top House colleagues.

Most recently, he was credited with navigating political and ideological divides in Harrisburg to push through a massive transportation-funding bill that Gov. Corbett signed into law late last year.

Still, Smith was potentially facing an election rematch with a primary opponent who nearly edged him out in 2012. Smith won by several hundred votes.

The speaker told reporters Tuesday that he wasn't running from a primary fight. He said he simply did not enjoy the job in Harrisburg as much anymore. He talked about the "the daily toll" it could take.

Smith will serve to the end of his term, Nov. 30. Though he does not yet know what his next step will be, he conceded that it likely would not involve running for another public office, or, as some of his past colleagues, becoming a Harrisburg lobbyist.

"I just don't see myself doing that," he said.

Colleagues on Tuesday praised Smith as someone who, while tough, made an effort to work both sides of the aisle.

House Minority Leader Frank Dermody (D., Allegheny) said Smith "quickly understood that leading the chamber and acting in its best interests means working with all sides and, at a minimum, letting all voices be heard."

Smith was first elected to the House in 1986 and became the Republican caucus' majority leader in 2003. He was elected speaker in 2011 and has since run the House during a financially tumultuous time for the state.

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