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Castor may still challenge Corbett

| Tuesday, April 16, 2013, 12:10 a.m.
JC Schisler | Tribune-Review
Montgomery County Commissioner Bruce Castor, a potential GOP candidate for governor next year, visits with Tribune-Review reporters and editors on Monday, April 15, 2013.

Bruce Castor wants a rematch with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett.

But the Montgomery County Republican, who lost a 2004 Attorney General primary race to Corbett, said it will be months before he decides whether Corbett is sufficiently vulnerable to merit the primary challenge he is exploring.

During a visit to Pittsburgh on Monday, Castor told Tribune-Review editors and reporters he doesn't want the GOP to repeat the mistake it made in 2006 by backing then-Sen. Rick Santorum for re-election. Santorum lost to Sen. Bob Casey Jr. by 17 percentage points.

Castor, 51, a former two-term district attorney serving his second term as Montgomery County commissioner, called Corbett a “ham-handed” politician who has failed to deliver on a conservative agenda. He said Corbett blew his opportunity to push through conservative priorities, such as a right-to-work law, early in his term when his popularity was at its height and Republican majorities controlled the Legislature.

“He has not been out front in getting the House and Senate to go along with the vision he has articulated,” Castor charged.

Corbett campaign manager Mike Barley said the governor has built a strong conservative record, despite inheriting a $4.2 billion deficit.

“He laid out his vision for Pennsylvania and he's been executing that vision with smaller government and less taxes,” Barley said.

But Corbett faces plummeting poll numbers and last month the Cook Report, a national political newsletter, downgraded his 2014 re-election race from “leans Republican” to “toss-up.”

Castor conceded that could change.

“In February, I'd say he had no chance. I no longer think that. I think the governor has improved his standing with the party with his success with the liquor bill in the House. Even if it bombs in the Senate, I no longer think he has no chance,” Castor said.

Joseph DiSarro, chairman of the political science department at Washington & Jefferson College, said it is unlikely the 2014 race will be dominated by any single issue.

“Privatization is a brilliant move by the governor. ... If he gets this, it's a big win, but it's not the only issue,” DiSarro said, ticking off health care, the troubled Turnpike Commission and budget and taxes as other key issues.

“Thus far, budget and taxes are the only ones where he scores well,” DiSarro said.

Castor, who describes himself as more in touch with the GOP conservative base, voted to raise taxes in Montgomery County. He said the increase was necessary after years of corrupt government that he long railed against.

Although he has never won a statewide election, Castor's political career in southeastern Pennsylvania, where the highest concentration of voters lives, means he's already built broad name recognition in the state's most expensive media market.

Castor estimated he would need about $5 million to run a successful primary campaign.

Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or derdley@tribweb.com. Staff writer Mike Wereschagin contributed to this report.

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