Pennsylvania Democrats have a rare shot at taking down state House Speaker Mike Turzai in November | Opinion | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pennsylvania Democrats have a rare shot at taking down state House Speaker Mike Turzai in November

When you have a chance to cut off the head of the snake, you take it because you may not get another one.

There’s something I admire about Republican Pennsylvania state Rep. Mike Turzai.
In 2012, just a few months before the presidential election, Turzai and his fellow Republicans enacted the infamous Pennsylvania voter-ID law. The law required photo identification to vote. And while the Republicans tried to spin some tale about it cutting down on voter fraud (which didn’t exist), Turzai told members of a Republican State Committee meeting what we knew all along: “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”

click to enlarge Mike Turzai
Mike Turzai
There is a very small part of me that admired the speaker for admitting what we already knew: The law was designed to keep voters who tended to lean Democratic away from the polls. I despised the law then and knew eventually that it would be overturned as unconstitutional, which it was. But in that moment, Turzai was honest about what drove him as a legislator: passing patently unfair laws that fit his personal agenda regardless of how many people are disenfranchised.

And while I may have mild admiration for his display of honesty in that instance, I loathe what drives him as a legislator. Mike Turzai is a self-righteous, power-drunk obstructionist who’s guided by a moral compass that no person who’s ever had an original thought in their head would ever follow.
Here’s a list of Turzai’s “accomplishments” in recent years:

• Blocked the state’s medical-marijuana legislation for more than two years before House Majority Leader Dave Reed took control and moved it toward its eventual passage
• Led the charge for onerous restrictions on women’s health clinics in the wake of the case involving Philadelphia doctor Kermit Gosnell
• Served as a key figure preventing a state budget deal
• Pushed legislation that allowed groups like the NRA to sue municipalities over local gun laws
• Supported English-only legislation
• Voted in favor of Pennsylvania’s Castle Doctrine
• Pushed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage
• Consistently sent bills banning discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation to state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe’s government committee, where he knows they will never be seen again

This is just a list off the top of my head! Turzai has spent his career blocking legislation that doesn’t match up with his warped sense of what’s right and wrong. And he refuses to consider any opinions to the contrary. Take medical marijuana, for example. Turzai’s own wife is a medical doctor who supports using cannabis for medicinal purposes. If he won’t listen to the advice of his own wife, what hope do we have that House Democrats like Jake Wheatley, Ed Gainey and Dan Frankel will ever be able to get through to him?

For years, Turzai has been an immovable object. He rarely faces an election challenger and has prevailed each time. But this year could be a different story. John Craig Hammond, a history professor at Penn State New Kensington, started a last-minute write-in campaign to get on the Democratic ticket in November. Hammond’s effort put a scare into Turzai, who asked Democrats to write in Turzai, so he could be on both tickets. Here’s a shocker: It didn’t work.

Of course, we’ll need to get to know Hammond in the coming months and you can be sure that City Paper will be talking with him soon. But the fact that he decided to run and got on the ballot the hard way shows some initiative and heart. Hammond will hold his campaign kickoff event at 6 p.m. May 24, at Fresco’s in McCandless.

This could be a chance to get rid of a politician who obstructs the business of government every time it runs counter to his personal agenda. I know that the Democratic state party is consumed with removing Republican Sen. Pat Toomey from office in the fall, but it needs to get behind Hammond, spend resources on this race and send Turzai packing. It would be foolish of the party not to capitalize on this opportunity.

When you have a chance to cut off the head of the snake, you take it because you may not get another one.

Comments (4)
Comments are closed.