Montgomery County Commissioner Bruce L. Castor Jr. announced today he will not seek the Republican nod for the soon-to-be-vacated 24th District state Senate seat held by Republican Rob Wonderling.
Castor was one of three Montgomery County politicians competing for a chance to fill Wonderling's unexpired term in a special election this fall.
Castor's surprise announcement leaves state Rep. Bob Mensch, R-147th, as the likely choice to run on the GOP ballot.
The other potential GOP challenger, former state Rep. Jay Moyer, announced late Monday he's dropping out. Moyer endorsed Mensch and said he wants to concentrate on another run for the 70th House District seat that he lost in 2008.
Castor said he received plenty of encouragement from residents of Bucks, Lehigh, Northampton and Montgomery counties about a 24th Senate District run, but he decided to finish his term as a commissioner in Montgomery County, which is facing a fiscal crisis under the leadership of Democrat Joe Hoeffel and GOP turncoat Jim Matthews.
"If I were to run in the Special Election I would vacate my seat as a commissioner at a critical point in the budget process, leaving my colleagues to adopt a budget with no third commissioner in place or with a new commissioner who had little or no time to study the budget before being asked to act on it," Castor said in a written statement. "I do not believe that is fair to the citizens of Montgomery County to create such a situation and at this time I believe the best way I can serve the citizens is to remain a commissioner and a vocal critic of the policies that have led us to this point while offering my own suggestions on a better way to govern Montgomery County."
Castor was the top vote getter in the 2007 election to fill three Montgomery County commissioner seats. Hoeffel finished second and Matthews came in third thanks to a last-minute push by Castor to get Matthews re-elected at the request of party leadership.
Instead of joining Castor to form a GOP majority on the board, Matthews made a deal with Hoeffel to form a power-sharing arrangement, where Hoeffel supported Matthews as commissioners' chairman in return for obtaining unprecedented control of county government by a minority commissioner.
Hoeffel has hired all sorts of Democratic Party cronies to high-paying county jobs in the past 18 months.
"For 18 months, I have warned that the spending policies pursued by the county commissioners would lead to an unavoidable budget crisis," Castor said in a written statement. "Last year my colleagues used $16 million of our savings and failed to fund $7 million in pension obligations to our county employees in order to balance the budget. They do not have that option this year. The Finance Department projects a $50 million plus budget shortfall for 2010 while reminding us that the pension obligation will come due at the end of this year -- an obligation my fellow commissioners failed to budget for and now do not have the funds to meet. I cited this failure as one of my principle reasons for voting against the 2009 county budget.
Castor is the lone voice of fiscal reason on the commissioners' board and said he will work to inform Montgomery County taxpayers about the irresponsible spending by the Hoeffel-Matthews regime.
"This year we face a mounting deficit that my fellow commissioners will attempt to blame on the economy, Harrisburg, Washington, and just about anyone and anything else they can," Castor said. "But the fault lies in their reckless pursuit of cronyism, patronage and borrow and spend governance using tax dollars to fuel their appetite. This year may be the most critical budget deliberations in the history of Montgomery County. I believe I have an obligation to see this budget process to completion and that is what I intend to do."
The 24th District Senate seat will become vacant on Aug. 1 when Wonderling steps down to take a new job as president of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.
Republicans should be able to hold Wonderling's seat in a special election this fall and again in 2010 when a full four-year term is up for grabs.
Democrats have had trouble finding a candidate. The leading contender, state Rep. Bob Freeman, D-136th Dist., bowed out last week after a poll showed Freeman losing to both Castor and Mensch.