The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

November 3, 2012

Unbeatable Shuster? Win could lead to chairmanship of transportation panel

— The race for the 9th Congressional District seat has been relatively quiet, with candidates erecting some yard signs and mailing fliers.

Republican incumbent Bill Shuster of Hollidaysburg, Blair County, is expected to handily hold his seat against a challenge from Karen Ramsburg, a Franklin County nurse.

Running a write-in campaign is Paul Ritchey, 75, a retired telephone technician from Berlin who is listed as having no party affiliation.

If re-elected, Shuster could bring increased clout to the region if he takes over as chairman of the House Transportation Committee. That move is  viewed as highly probable.

“It does look pretty good,” he said of his possible ascent to the chairmanship.

“But I have to jump over eight members more senior to me.”

The 51-year-old legislator is seeking his sixth term. He cited concerns regarding Obamacare and job creation. He also pointed to a nation facing a huge problem with crumbling infrastructure and little money to deal with it.

The son of Bud Shuster, who spent years at the center of the table of the House Transportation Committee, said the nation will suffer without an infusion of money to repair highways and bridges.

“We’re going to have to address our roads and infrastructure, which is crumbling,” he said in a telephone interview.

At one point, the United States ranked fourth or fifth in quality of highways and bridges on a global scale. But in recent years that rank has slipped to 23.

“This is going to be a central question on America being competitive in this world market,” Shuster said.

Ramsburg, 50, of Mercersburg, said that while bridges and highways need to be a priority, she is convinced a new face representing the massive 12-county district is the first step.

“We need to vote out the career politicians,” she said in a telephone interview.

Health care concerns both candidates, with Shuster calling for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. He cites its negative impact on small business and said health care in general is suffering.

Ramsburg, long an Independent who won the Democratic nomination in May, likewise is unenthusiastic about Obamacare, saying too much goes to administering the massive overhaul.

Rather, she supports a plan providing basic health care for everyone, resembling the health care provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The private insurance industry would remain in place. People who can afford it could purchase what she termed a “Cadillac plan.”

She blasted Shuster, claiming he supports health-care reform similar to that proposed by vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan.

Shuster countered that Ramsburg’s plan is a two-tier socialist plan from Europe.

Obamacare, tax rates and unknown federal regulations are stifling growth nationwide, Shuster said.

He estimates that private businesses have a $2 trillion bankroll that will not be invested until there are some answers.

“The CEO of Giant Foods, whose U.S. headquarters is in Carlisle, told me that they are sitting on millions and millions of dollars they want to invest, but won’t until they know what is going to happen,” Shuster said.

Another hot button issue for voters in Cambria, Somerset, Fayette and other counties in the 9th district is the future of coal.

Coal companies, miners and tri-axle truckers have taken their fight to the top, with yard signs reading “Stop the War on Coal, Fire Obama.”

They argue that tighter regulations by the federal Environmental Protection Agency on all areas of the coal industry will put them out of business.

Ramsburg said that while she supports coal miners, she wants to see a greater push in the green energy industries of solar and wind power.

“I don’t care about coal company profits, but I will protect coal workers’ jobs,” she said. “I would look at all of the (EPA) regulations to make sure they are fair and balanced.”

Shuster said he will fight for the coal industry, Marcellus Shale and other shale gas initiatives, which he termed a salvation for Pennsylvania.

He also pledged to continue his fight against regulations imposed by Obama that wrest control from the House and Senate.

“The Obama administration has allowed regulatory agencies to get out of control,” he said. “Congress has given up its power to these regulatory powers.”

The 9th district includes all or parts of Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Fayette, Franklin, Fulton, Greene, Huntingdon, Indiana, Somerset, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

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