HARRISBURG - Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R., Delaware) is considering a bid to challenge Sen. Bob Casey next year.

Pileggi - who would be the candidate with the highest profile in a crowded Republican field - made it known that he is weighing entering the race on his Facebook page Tuesday.

Pileggi said he had been approached by "a number of people" about running, but he did not indicate when he might make it official.

"I'm flattered by the question, and I have deep concerns about the direction our nation is taking in many areas, including historically high levels of unemployment, the spiraling national debt, and the federal government's attempt to take over health care," said Pileggi in a post on his Facebook page.

Pileggi's entry would bring to at least 10 the number of Republican Senate candidates, among them former state House representative and gubernatorial candidate Sam Rohrer and Steve Welch, a Chester County biotech entrepreneur.

Alan Novak, the former state Republican Party chairman, said Pileggi would bring "excitement and energy to a race against a well-known, statewide incumbent."

He said the current field of GOP candidates suffers from what he called "a dearth of qualified candidates."

"Not to say one of them couldn't surprise people and make a race of it," Novak said.

Pileggi's spokesman, Erik Arneson, said the senator was not available to discuss the issue beyond his Facebook post.

Pileggi, 53, the former mayor of Chester, was elected to the Senate in 2002 and was named by his colleagues to be the majority leader in 2006.

Known as a hardworking, no-nonsense leader, Pileggi wrote the state's open-records act and guided the passage of the first on-time state budget in eight years. He gained national attention this fall when he proposed changing the way Pennsylvania elects presidential candidates.

Pileggi faces a tough fund-raising challenge in a race that will likely cost tens of millions. Federal records show Casey has $3.75 million in the bank.

The 2006 race, in which Casey prevailed over incumbent Rick Santorum, cost the two candidates a total of $43 million.

Novak said Pileggi should probably consider announcing before the annual Pennsylvania Society meeting in New York on the weekend of Dec. 9, an event where candidates build their profiles and raise cash.

G. Terry Madonna, pollster and political analyst at Franklin and Marshall College, said it could be tricky for Pileggi to balance running a statewide campaign while serving as a leader in the Senate.

And Madonna said Pileggi may find it tough to find a political niche among the increasingly rightward-leaning Republican Party.

"Pileggi won't be the darling of the tea party," said Madonna. "He would be seen as the establishment candidates, the moderate from the suburbs of Philadelphia."

Also running for the GOP nomination: Tom Smith, a former coal-company owner from southwestern Pennsylvania; Tim Burns, who built a pharmaceutical-software company and was the GOP nominee for Congress in the 12th District, centered in Johnstown; Marc Scaringi, a Harrisburg-area lawyer and former Senate aide; David Christian, a Bucks County veterans' advocate; Laureen Cummings, a Scranton-area tea-party activist; Bedford County pharmacist John Kensinger; and John Vernon, a retired Army colonel from Tioga County.

Contact staff writer Amy Worden at 717-783-2584 or aworden@phillynews.com.