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Congressman Bill Shuster claims win, Halvorson holds out hope

Written by Jim Hook/Chambersburg Public Opinion | Apr 27, 2016 5:33 AM
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Photo by AP Photo/Public Opinion, Ryan Blackwell

(Undated) -- Art Halvorson made a strong run at seven-full-term Rep. Bill Shuster in Pennsylvania's 9th Congressional District as of deadline Tuesday night.

With nearly 95,000 votes counted and all precincts counted in Franklin County, Shuster held a 1,600-vote lead (51 percent to 49 percent). Turnout was nearly double the last time the two met.

Halvorson at midnight still hoped that provisional and absentee ballots would put him over the top. Shuster claimed victory.

"I'm still expecting to win," Halvorson said. "It will take two to three days to sort this out. I don't think this is over. I know it's not over. I will accept the result when it's all done. I think politics have changed in America forever. Ninety thousand people turned out. That's remarkable."

Halvorson, sunburned from his campaigning in Antrim Township, calmly greeted supporters Tuesday night at the Crossroads Bible Church in Cessna, located off the Bud Shuster Highway (Interstate 99) in Bedford County.

"We predicted it would be knife edge, one vote," Halvorson said as he watched results. "This is as grassroots as it gets."

The retired Coast Guard captain and commercial real estate manager took Blair County, a traditional Shuster stronghold, by nearly 2,200 votes. Halvorson also took Bedford County by 1,300 votes and Franklin by almost 400 votes. Shuster scored victories in the western part of the district. He won Fayette County by 3,900.

Shuster watched the returns with friends and family in Blair County, according to his campaign spokesman.

At midnight Shuster released a statement: "I am honored to represent a region that I have called home my entire life, and I thank the people of the 9th district for electing me to represent the Republican Party in the election this November. My campaign focused on a positive message of conservative solutions that cut spending and put up a roadblock to President Obama's disastrous agenda, and I won't stop fighting for these values. 

"As I have since my first day in office, I'll continue representing our region with conservative leadership, and I look forward to our party coming together to stop Hillary Clinton and get a conservative back in the White House."

Shuster's campaign committee spent $1.7 million on his bid for re-election, more than 10 times what Halvorson spent. Shuster also got $200,000 in an independent ad campaign from the American Action Network Super PAC.

During the campaign Halvorson labeled Shuster as a Washington insider. He claimed the incumbent was ineffective against President Obama's agenda and that he takes campaign contributions from political action committees representing industries that appear before his committee.

Halvorson's campaign also took issue with Shuster's personal relationship with a woman who lobbies the committee he chairs.

Shuster, chairman of the House transportation committee, has been open about his relationship with airline lobbyist Shelly Rubino. Shuster said that Halvorson was running a negative campaign.

Shuster repeatedly proclaimed his conservative credentials with the slogans "proven conservative leadership" and "Shuster works." He also repeated a charge from the previous election - Halvorson was a carpetbagger who settled in Manns Choice so he could win a seat in Congress.

The incumbent garnered endorsements from the National Rifle Association, Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation and the National Right to Life. Halvorson also made his stand as a pro-life and pro-gun candidate.

Both campaigns tapped into voter's concerns about immigration and jobs, keystone issues in Donald trump's presidential campaign that helped drive voter turnout.

The 9th District extends across 12 counties, including all of Franklin, Fulton, Bedford, Blair and Indiana counties. Franklin and Blair counties have the greatest number of registered Republican with 50,915 and 41,828 respectively.

Democratic ballots did not list anyone for the office.

A Shuster has represented Pennsylvania's 9th Congressional District since 1973 when Bud Shuster was first elected to the seat. Bud Shuster chaired the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee from 1995 to 2001. The House in 1996 investigated Bud Shuster's relationship with Ann Eppard, a former Shuster aide turned lobbyist. He retired in 2001 when GOP rules forbade him from keeping the chairmanship.

When he retired in 2001 the Republican Party nominated his son, Bill Shuster, to succeed him.

Bill Shuster won his first election, the closest General Election of his career. He defeated Democrat Centre County Commissioner Scott Conklin 52 percent to 44 percent. Centre County was removed from the 9th District at the next reapportionment.

The Bill Shuster handily has won general elections since with 60 to 73 percent of the vote.

His closest race came in 2004 within his own party. Businessman Michael Delgrosso challenged Bill Shuster and lost by a narrow 51-to-49 split.

Bill Shuster went unopposed until 2012 when Travis Schooley, a Franklin County grants writer and alpaca farmer, filed nominating petitions, but fell 13 signatures short of getting on the ballot.

In 2014 Schooley and Halvorson took a run at Bill Shuster. The incumbent won the primary election with 53 percent of the vote to 35 percent for Halvorson and 13 percent for Schooley.

This article comes to us through a content-sharing partnership between WITF and theChambersburg Public Opinion.

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