Tom Wolf seems to have picked the right time to enter a gubernatorial race against an incumbent.

Political analyst G. Terry Madonna said Republican Gov. Tom Corbett will likely have to overcome record-low approval ratings when he runs for re-election next year.

"That's a fact the Democrats understand," said Madonna, who directs Franklin & Marshall College's Center for Politics & Public Affairs.

"If you're going to run against an incumbent for governor of Pennsylvania, this is definitely the cycle you'd want to put your name on the ballot," said Bob Kefauver, chairman of the county Democrats.

Wolf, 64, announced Tuesday he will pursue the Democratic nomination for governor in 2014.

Madonna said the field is getting crowded for Democrats, either with official or likely announcements, as he called this cycle the "most active" gubernatorial race in recent memory for a challenging party.

Usually, he said, "they have to beg someone to run" against an incumbent.

That's not the case this time.

Former U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz and state Treasurer Rob McCord are among the top names likely considering a run, and two Democrats from the Harrisburg area already announced they are running: state government veteran John Hanger and resident Max Myers.

"Do I think all of them are serious that are going to file? Absolutely not," Madonna said.

Name recognition: But Wolf has a major advantage. He's said he has $10 million available already from his own money to fund the campaign, and that will greatly add to name recognition outside of York County.

He'll need it, Madonna said, as businessmen historically aren't elected to be governor.

"Every candidate has advantages and disadvantages," he said. "In Wolf's case, he has 10 million bucks. That's a huge start."

Kefauver said he spoke with Wolf Tuesday morning and could sense the excitement, as Wolf already has been making calls and plans for the primary campaign.

Wolf announced a run for governor in 2010 but dropped out before the primary because of business responsibilities.

He'll have his work cut out in Republican-heavy York County, to start.

County Republican chairman Bob Wilson said he wishes Wolf the best, but that "I intend to win York County. That's just my job."

Wilson said he commends Wolf for putting his name out there, considering the scrutiny involved in running for governor. But he said Wolf will face stiff competition, especially if or when McCord, Sestak, or other big names enter.

"I don't know if he has the name recognition," Wilson said. "It's going to be an uphill battle."

Philanthropist: Wolf does have name recognition in York County.

Besides serving as revenue secretary in the Rendell administration, the Mount Wolf resident runs The Wolf Organization, a York-based building products company.

He is also well known for his philanthropy, having served as the York County United Way's board chairman about two decades ago, among other efforts.

Robert Woods, executive director of United Way, said Wolf has "given very generously' over the years and been a strong supporter.

"Hopefully he'll have the name recognition," to advance, Woods said.

- Reach Andrew Shaw at ashaw@yorkdispatch.com