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As elected members of the United States House of Representatives gear up for their re-election cycle primaries in May 2014, Republican Pennsylvania representatives are fighting to make sure their party remains in control of the House after November’s general election.
In Indiana’s own 9th Congressional District, incumbent Republican representative Bill Shuster has already begun fundraising efforts to face his two challengers – Art Halvorson, a businessman from Mann’s Choice, a borough in Bedford County.
Shuster also faces lifetime 9th- District resident, Travis Schooley, who attempted to face Shuster in the 2012 primary but failed to get enough signatures to earn a spot on the ballot.
The 9th District was affected by the 2012 redistricting.
The newly-drawn district that Shuster represents is comprised of parts of the former 12th District. The portion of Indiana County that is now under Shuster’s 9th District was formerly a part of that 12th District and represented by now-lieutenant governor candidate and Indiana University of Pennsylvania alumnus Mark Critz.
In office since he replaced his father, ex-Rep. Bud Shuster, in 2001, Shuster is considered a moderate Republican. In the House, he is the chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Halvorson, his opposition, has criticized Shuster for not being strict enough on conservative issues.
On his campaign website, in a September blog post, Halvorson criticized Shuster for not embracing the tea party before the 2012 election.
“For four years, he ignored invitations to meet with the tea party,” Halvorson wrote.
“Now, with his re-election effort struggling, he not only made an appearance but brought virtually his entire campaign and legislative staff to the town hall meeting.”
A September E&E Publishing article reported that Halvorson’s main area of conflict with Shuster is fiscal responsibility.
“I’m running due to [Shuster’s] lack of fiscal responsibility,” Halvorson told E&E Daily. “That’s my main beef with him. He is ripe for a primary, and I couldn’t take it anymore, and I decided to challenge him.”
The 9th District challenge joins the list of races started primarily in the 2010 cycle that pits incumbent Republican candidates against more conservative, often tea party, challengers.
The Republican primary race for the Commonwealth’s ninth district is one of Politico’s “five races to watch.”
“Shuster’s primary will pit an incumbent against the anti-establishment wing of the party,” Politico reporter Alex Isenstadt said in the article.
As of the Oct. 15 Federal Election Commission campaign finance report filing deadline, Shuster had raised almost 28 times as much as Halvorson in contributions alone. In the October quarterly filing, Shuster reported net contributions of $381,596.39. Comparatively, Halvorson raised only $13,760 for his campaign.
Despite Shuster’s extensive fundraising game, Politico reports that it’s not impossible for Halvorson to overcome the fundraising gap and still beat the incumbent in May.
“He’s got unlimited funds. I can’t compete against unlimited funding,” Halvorson told E&E Daily. “I will have enough money to run a campaign to beat him. My campaign will be grass-roots-oriented. His will be spending big bucks. We’ll see which one will win. The voters are what matter here.”
Shuster is also supported by a PAC, based out of Pittsburgh. The Freedom and Opportunity PAC registered with the FEC in August and has said that it will back Shuster.
His last serious primary challenge occurred in 2004 when he narrowly defeated consultant Michael DelGrosso to win the GOP nomination 51 percent to 49 percent.
As of now, it looks as if the May race is shaping up to be a contest between Shuster and Halvorson.
Schooley, as of press time, had not yet filed an October FEC report, suggesting a lack of fundraising and organization on the part of his campaign, which has yet to officially file with the FEC.
No candidates have declared their candidacy for the Democratic ticket for the state’s ninth district.
In 2012, no Democratic candidates filed to run in the primary, but Karen Ramsburg, a nurse from Mercersburg, was on the ballot in November and lost by just over 54,000 votes in the general election.