All three Republican Party candidates in Pennsylvania’s 9th Congressional District race attempted to distinguish themselves as the person conservative enough to represent the state’s most conservative district in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday night.
U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Hollidaysburg, quickly mentioned his “conservative record” in opening remarks made during a forum hosted by the Indiana Armstrong Patriots at Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex.
Similarly, Travis Schooley identified himself as “the most constitutionally conservative man on this stage.”
Art Halvorson, a Bedford County resident, called for getting “authentic conservatives” into leadership positions.
The 9th is ranked as the most conservative district in Pennsylvania, according to the Cook Political Report 2014 Partisan Voting Index.
Reflective of that, the three candidates shared many similar views concerning their opposition to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, support of the Second Amendment and their belief in limited government.
But they differentiated themselves, too.
Shuster emphasized his political background, understanding of local issues and experience as the owner of a small business that regularly employed 30 or more workers.
“I think what separates me here is the broad knowledge of the district and the ability to connect with the people here because I’m from here, because I’ve raised my family here, I had a business here, and I’ve represented this area now for the past 12 years and I’m intimately involved with the local issues,” Shuster said.
Halvorson, a former member of the Coast Guard and businessman, called for a change in the GOP’s leadership on the federal level.
“I have a broad swath of experience. … I can bring that together in the form of leadership to actually solve some problems,” Halvorson said. “That’s not happening and it has to change, and if you continue to re-elect the same people over and over again, we’re going to get the status quo. We’re going to get excuses. We’re going to hear about things that we should be doing but never seem to get done.”
Schooley, a municipal projects coordinator and owner of a livestock business from Franklin County, touted his working-class background.
“What I offer here is a rare chance for people to elect a working man, a man who understands what it’s like to wonder if the transmission is going to break in your truck and if you’re going to be able to pay your next bill.
“I think, by and large, too many people in Washington, D.C., are cut from a different mold. They don’t understand that,” Schooley said.
Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Dave_Sutor.