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Wagner, Turzai serve animosity at Westmoreland County GOP dinner

| Thursday, May 4, 2017, 9:27 p.m.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
State Rep. Mike Turzai speaks to members of the press during the Westmoreland County GOP spring dinner at Stratigos Banquet Centre in North Huntingdon, Pa., on Thursday, May 4, 2017.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Sen. Mike Wagner during the Westmoreland County GOP spring dinner at Stratigos Banquet Centre in North Huntingdon, Pa., on Thursday, May 4, 2017.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
State Rep. Rick Saccone during the Westmoreland County GOP spring dinner at Stratigos Banquet Centre in North Huntingdon, Pa., on Thursday, May 4, 2017.

A first-term state senator running for governor said House Speaker Mike Turzai is part of the Harrisburg culture and doesn't have the leadership skills to run Pennsylvania government.

"There's no leadership, there's no vision, and we have a lot of problems in Pennsylvania. And if we don't change the culture, we're going absolutely nowhere," state Sen. Scott Wagner of York County told the Tribune-Review on Thursday.

When asked if he thought Turzai was part of that problematic culture, Wagner said "yes." He answered "no" when asked if he thought Turzai had the leadership skills and the vision to lead Pennsylvania.

Turzai, of Marshall, told the crowd at the Westmoreland County GOP's annual Ronald Reagan Dinner, held at Stratigos Banquet Centre in North Huntingdon, that he is "seriously considering" running for governor. He's expected to announce his campaign plans this summer.

Before his speech, Turzai told reporters: "Senator Wagner's a good person, but he's in the state Senate.

"We'll see what he can deliver as a state senator — I haven't seen anything yet," he said.

Turzai, who was first elected to the House in 2001, touted his work as House majority leader between 2011 and 2014, including lean budgets under Gov. Tom Corbett, efforts to privatize the state liquor system, workers compensation reform and opposing Gov. Tom Wolf's call to increase broad-based taxes in his first budget proposal.

"You can be a bomb-thrower, but in the end you have to accomplish items," Turzai said.

It doesn't appear that Wagner's early criticism is changing Turzai's plans.

"Races are healthy if they're competitive," Turzai said.

Wagner's campaign demanded reporters not be allowed in the room when he addressed the GOP dinner crowd. Wagner is facing pressure after a video surfaced of him having a confrontation with a campaign operative at a country club.

Paul Mango, a Pittsburgh-area former business consultant, did not attend the dinner. He launched a campaign website and is expected to officially announce his candidacy later this month.

The GOP primary isn't until spring 2018.

The gubernatorial election is expected to be an expensive race. In 2014, Wolf, a millionaire businessman from York County, gave his campaign $10 million which funded ads early on, separating him from a pack of more veteran pols.

Wagner, a millionaire trash hauling company executive, is expected to use his personal wealth to boost his candidacy, and Turzai is known to be a prolific fundraiser in Pennsylvania.

Kevin Zwick is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2856, or on Twitter @kevinjzwick.

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