Call it four decades of a family serving its community. Or a dynasty that should end.
By either description, the Shuster family legacy has been a frequent point of discussion during this year’s 9th Congressional District election cycle. Current U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Hollidaysburg, took office in 2001 after winning a special election to fill a seat his father, U.S. Rep. Bud Shuster, vacated following a 28-year tenure.
This year, Bill Shuster is trying to retain the long-held position against three challengers – Republicans Art Halvorson and Travis Schooley, along with Democrat Alanna Hartzok – with the primaries scheduled to take place on Tuesday.
Halvorson, a Bedford County resident, has often discussed what he calls Shuster fatigue. He has also questioned Shuster’s ability to represent the district, which is rated the most Republican-leaning in all of Pennsylvania, according to Cook Political Report 2014 Partisan Voting Index.
“I would offer, first and foremost, leadership, which is what I see missing the most in Congress,” said Halvorson, a retired member of the Coast Guard.
“We have to have somebody who can go to Congress and understand how to solve problems, understand how to break problems down, how to bring people together, how to reach an agreement and get something done. I don’t hear that from our current leadership in Congress, and we need to put somebody up there who can do that.”
Like Halvorson, Schooley, an Army veteran and projects coordinator for Quincy Township in Franklin County, has questioned the leadership being shown by the federal government while touting his knowledge of local issues.
“For me, Congress is about paperwork – less about speaking and grandstanding – and more about rolling your sleeves up and reading what’s in those bills, voluminous bills,” said Schooley. “In my opinion, there’s been very little from Washington, D.C., that’s been good for the people of this country in a long time, so my experience is at the local level, and I understand the local-level issues more than either one of these two candidates. I can guarantee it.”
With Halvorson and Schooley coming at Shuster from the right, the incumbent has been emphasizing what he feels is a strong conservative voting record.
“I don’t always make the vote that you’re going to agree with,” said Shuster, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “But, you know what? I’ll stand up and tell you that. But I think, when you look at my conservative voting record, nine out of 10 times, eight out of 10 times is pretty good, and Ronald Reagan once said, I think I’m paraphrasing, ‘If you’re with me 80 percent of the time, you’re my friend, not my enemy.’ But I’m with the conservatives 90 percent or better. I believe that everything I look at is through a conservative prism.”
The winner of the GOP primary will face Hartzok in the general election.
Hartzok, co-director of Earth Rights Institute, a civil society organization, has visited dozens of countries, but she has been focusing mostly on local issues in her campaign.
“I think that we should expect our political leadership to come out and lead, and talk to people and understand what’s happening on the ground in our communities,” said Hartzok, who lives in Franklin County.
“Democrats are often thought to be big government people. Well, I think we’re a small-town region and that we want to have strong local government.”
Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Dave_Sutor.