HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania — Gov. Tom Corbett, facing stubbornly low approval ratings 18 months before he seeks a second term in next year's election, has one fewer potential opponent to worry about.
Bruce Castor, a Montgomery County commissioner, said Tuesday that he decided not to challenge Corbett in the 2014 Republican primary after announcing in December that he was exploring a bid.
In the last five months, Castor has been a tough and consistent critic of Corbett while touring the state to drum up support. It would be unusual for a sitting governor to face a serious primary challenge, and Corbett's poor performance in various recent opinion polls only helped fuel Castor's exploration.
However, Castor said he has had difficulty balancing his work as a lawyer and county commissioner, and finding time for his family, while testing support for a run. In the end, he decided that not enough people were open to his candidacy to encourage him to take on the enormous task of running against a sitting governor.
"It doesn't look like enough people were willing to stick their necks out and back me, enough to push me forward," Castor said.
In the meantime, several Democrats have lined up to challenge Corbett. They include U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, York County businessman Tom Wolf and former state environmental protection secretary John Hanger of Dauphin County.
A Quinnipiac University poll released April 29 found that 38 percent of those surveyed approve of the job Corbett is doing as governor, while 47 percent do not approve. Meanwhile, 50 percent to 32 percent said Corbett does not deserve re-election.
A Castor-Corbett race would not have been the first between the men. Corbett beat Castor in a bitter and expensive 2004 Republican primary for attorney general. In recent weeks an anti-Castor website emerged, but does not identify its sponsor. Corbett's political advisers said they were not involved in it.
Castor said he likes Corbett, and believes that Corbett has always tried to do a good job. But he said he worried that the Republican Party is ignoring Corbett's low approval ratings, reminding him of then-U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum's defeat in 2006.
"I think that we are lining up as Republicans the same way we did behind Rick Santorum in 2005 and 2006, when nobody thought he would win," Castor said. "And in fact, we were right and we followed him over a cliff and I think Republicans are fixing to do that again if Gov. Corbett doesn't turn things around."