"What I said was inexcusable, and as sheriff, I would not use lethal force against an abortion doctor," Szabo said in a written statement to the Bedford Patch. He said he regretted and retracted the comments.
With the apology, Szabo ignored calls to drop out of the race, saying he hoped voters would give him another chance. He also said he still believes there is a difference between "lawful" actions and "legal" ones. Abortion, he said, falls into one category and not the other.
"While I maintain that abortion is unlawful because it strips the right to life from a helpless unborn child, I recognize it is legal," Szabo said, "and for that reason deadly force against an abortion doctor is not justifiable."
In a post on his Facebook page on Thursday morning, Szabo called himself a "man of peace" and partly blamed the journalist who first asked him about his use of deadly force.
"If the reporter came out and asked me plainly, 'Would I shoot the doctor?', I would have been appalled at the question," he wrote. He described the fallout from his comments as a "nightmare" but said he was apologizing anyway.