Exclusive: Castor Mulling Primary Challenge to Corbett
Bruce Castor is considering challenging Governor Tom Corbett in the 2014 Republican primary, the Montgomery County Commissioner told PoliticsPA.
“I am considering the possibility of becoming a candidate for Governor,” Castor said. “I believe that Governor Corbett is vulnerable.”
For months, murmurs of a possible primary challenge have circulated among Republican insiders. Castor is the first person to say he’s pondering a run and he’s among the top tier of potential candidates.
“It looks to me like Governor Corbett has not fulfilled the promise he came into office with,” Castor said. “That could change and everything could end up being terrific a year from now. But if it’s not I want to be in a position where I haven’t sat on my hands.”
His chief criticism of the Governor is leadership style. As far as policy differences, Castor said Corbett hasn’t been sufficiently aggressive dealing with public sector unions or with privatizing the state liquor stores.
PoliticsPA is seeking comment from Corbett.
The two men have a history. Castor lost to Corbett by 5 points in the 2004 primary for Pa. Attorney General. Corbett was endorsed by the Republican State Committee in that contest – much to Castor’s chagrin.
Ousting an incumbent is tough in almost any circumstance. Corbett has proven to be a tough campaigner and a strong fundraiser; his latest campaign committee finance report for year end 2011 showed he had $2.05 million on hand.
Former Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger is the only announced Democrat although Pa. Treasurer Rob McCord is also interested in the race.
But there’s an X-factor: Corbett’s handling of the Jerry Sandusky case. One Republican operative who said he would support a Castor bid argued that Sandusky makes Corbett a liability for the GOP in a general election.
“Governor Corbett is not well-liked by the Republican legislature. They don’t view him as a good leader,” the operative said. But moreso, “They view him as damaged beyond repair on the Sandusky scandal and they think he would lose a general.”
A former prosecutor, Castor deferred on the issue. He said he was eagerly awaiting Attorney General-elect Kathleen Kane’s findings on the subject.
“I used a grand jury when I thought it was necessary to obtain evidence that I couldn’t get any other way,” he said. “But the big question on everybody’s mind is, was the decision to move the Sandusky case into the grand jury done for the purpose of making it go slower. There is not yet enough information in the public domain to render an opinion on that.”
Castor, 51, was twice elected Montgomery County District Attorney from 2000 to 2008. He was elected as County Commissioner in 2007 when, because of an unexpected power-sharing deal between Republican Jim Matthews and Democrat Joe Hoeffel, he was locked out of county governance. However, when Democrats Josh Shapiro and Leslie Richards swept into office in 2011, he went from cantankerous opposition to constructive partner and many of his complaints about his previous colleagues were vindicated.
He presently works at the Blue Bell office of the law firm Elliott Greenleaf and lives in Lower Salford Township with his wife and two children.
The timing of Castor’s now-public consideration is not a coincidence. This weekend is Pennsylvania Society, when the state’s political movers and shakers get together for an annual dinner in New York City. It’s an ideal opportunity generate buzz.