In a year of apparent voter discontent, and with numerous top jobs up for grabs, nearly everybody, it seems, wants to run for office.

Six candidates for governor - four Democrats and two Republicans - met the deadline at 5 p.m. yesterday to get their names on May 18 primary ballots. So did 12 candidates for lieutenant governor and five for U.S. Senate.

They were among more than 1,200 candidates for positions high and low who filed voter-signature petitions to reach the starting line for what looks to be an expensive, noisy, and entertaining election season in Pennsylvania.

Races for several U.S. House seats drew a wide variety of contenders, including several with the conservative tea-party movement.

In the Senate race, incumbent Arlen Specter will try to win a sixth term after switching from Republican to Democrat. U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak is portraying himself as the true Democrat in the primary.

Also on the Democratic ballot is Allegheny County businessman Joseph Vodvarka.

Former U.S. Rep. Pat Toomey is favored to beat Peg Luksik, a leader of the antiabortion movement from Johnstown, on the GOP side.

With Gov. Rendell unable to seek a third term, the governorship may be wide open.

On the GOP side, state Attorney General Tom Corbett is a heavy favorite to whip State Rep. Sam Rohrer of Berks County.

Four Democrats will seek their party's nomination: Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Hoeffel, state Auditor General Jack Wagner, Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, and state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams of Philadelphia.

Though widely seen as competent, the field is not well known little more than two months before the primary.

"I don't think voters perceive that there are any particularly dynamic candidates," said professor Jack M. Treadway of Kutztown University. "They are known to people who follow politics. But not to average citizens."

The field for lieutenant governor includes nine Republicans and three Democrats.

Top Republicans last month selected Bucks County Commissioner Jim Cawley as their choice for the No. 2 job. But candidate Chet Beiler, of Lancaster County, a former GOP nominee for auditor general, said the deck seemed stacked in Cawley's favor.

"Some people believe that Jim Cawley was installed, not endorsed," Beiler said. "That is why you see such a large field of candidates."

GOP contenders include Billy McCue, a father of two from Washington County; Stephen Urban, a Luzerne County commissioner; former State Rep. John Kennedy of Cumberland County; Steve Johnson, a York businessman; Jean Craig Pepper of Erie, a former GOP nominee for state treasurer; Russ Diamond of Annville, founder of the PA Clean Sweep group; and State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe of the Pittsburgh area.

Endorsed Democrat Jonathan Saidel, a former Philadelphia controller, will be opposed by Doris A. Smith-Ribner, a former Commonwealth Court judge from Philadelphia, and State Rep. Scott Conklin of Centre County.

In the Sixth U.S. House District, covering parts of three suburban counties, two Democrats, former editorial writer Doug Pike and Reading physician Manan Trivedi, will face off. On the GOP side, Patrick Henry Sellers, a tea-party activist, is challenging incumbent Jim Gerlach.

In the Seventh District, concentrated in Delaware and Chester Counties, Democratic State Rep. Bryan Lentz - the favorite of party leaders - will face Gail M. Conner of Edgmont, an environmental consultant and lawyer. Republican Patrick Meehan, a former U.S. attorney, is unopposed.

In the Eighth District, mostly in Bucks County, former U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick is the GOP favorite to run against Democratic incumbent Patrick Murphy in the fall. But three other GOP candidates are in the race.

Ira Hoffman, a financial planner from Solebury, says he is worried citizens are "losing our freedom." Gloria Carlineo, a former Capitol Hill aide, wants to end deficit spending. James Jones of Langhorne, an Army veteran, stresses personal responsibility.

At least 10 state House members from Philadelphia and one state senator have primary opponents in May.

In Northeast Philadelphia, Rep. John M. Perzel has a primary challenge from Joseph Gaynor. Perzel, the former speaker of the House, is charged with theft and conspiracy in the cash-for-campaigning scandal in Harrisburg.

Perzel isn't the only incumbent charged in the scandal seeking reelection. Democratic Rep. Bill DeWeese of Greene County, the former majority leader, also is running again.

In the suburban 12th Senate District, Republican incumbent Stewart Greenleaf will be opposed in November by former Democratic Montgomery County Commissioner Ruth Damsker.

Democrat Lois Herr is again challenging incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts for the 16th House District, which includes parts of Chester and Lancaster Counties.