IUPolitique: Three Republicans earn PA-9 ballot spot

Rep. Bill Shuster, a Republican who represents the 9th Congressional District in the United States Congress, will face two GOP challengers on the May 20 primary ballot.

The 9th Congressional District is comprised of areas of Indiana County, including the campus of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Bedford County, Blair County, Fayette County, Franklin County, Fulton County, Cambria County, Greene County, Huntingdon County, Somerset County, Washington County and Westmoreland County.

Shuster, who has been in office since 2001 when he took over the seat from his father, Bud Shuster, will be challenged by Art Halvorson and Travis Schooley on the May primary ballot.

Halvorson, a businessman and retired Coast Guard captain, told PoliticsPA in an exclusive interview after petition signatures were filed that the campaign was going well, something indicated by how Shuster has attacked him in advertisements and other statements.

“The easiest way to tell is by watching my opponent, see what he’s doing,” Halvorson said. “The harder he works, the more successful I know I’m being.”

In a late March ad, the Shuster campaign criticized Halvorson for going on record as being against government subsidies. The campaign alleged in the ad that Halvorson had received government subsidies for farms that he owns in Iowa.

The advertisement garnered enough attention to cause FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, to weigh in on the issue.

FactCheck reported that Halvorson did not directly accept the subsidies, which in fact went to the farmer who works on the land Halvorson owns. However, indirectly, Halvorson could have benefited from the subsidies due to the increased value of the land because of them.

Halvorson also had the ability to cancel the subsidies but did not do so.

In response to Shuster’s attacks, Halvorson accused the representative of running a personal smear campaign.

“This third party investigation clearly shows that he misrepresented the facts by misconstruing documents and citing evidence out of context, a fact that has troubling implications,” Halvorson told PoliticsPA. “Given the critical problems facing our nation, Mr. Shuster should stop these false attacks and focus on the important issues facing the voters of Pennsylvania’s 9th District.”

But Halvorson is not the only challenger to Shuster; Schooley has also qualified for a spot on the ballot. Schooley unsuccessfully attempted to run for the seat in 2012. This time, though, Schooley told PoliticsPA in an exclusive, he was ready to fight.

“I wasn’t fully committed in the past,” Schooley said. “I’m convinced something positive will come out of it [this time].”

Schooley graduated from Shippensburg University in 2000 and has served in the Army National Guard. The candidate has worked in local government at the municipal level.

He serves on the executive committee for the Franklin County Republican Committee and remains a member of Franklin County’s Young Republicans.

At the backbone of the race, however, is an attempt by each Republican vying for the seat to be seen as the most conservative. The 9th District, according to the 2014 Cook Political Report, the district is an R+14, meaning that conservative candidates are strongly favored.

As May approaches, all candidates have said they are open to a debate. Halvorson has accused Shuster’s campaign of trying to “run out the clock,” though.

But the three Republicans attempting to keep the seat in GOP hands are not the only ones gearing up for a fight. According to Ballotpedia, Alanna Hartzok will be seeking the Democratic nomination for the seat in Congress.

Hartzok, a Democrat from Fayetteville, is a 65-year-old medical professional, according to Chambersburg’s Public Opinion newspaper. She has said that her voter registration has shifted from Republican to Green to Democratic in various orders.

According to Pennsylvania’s voter services portal online, Hartzok has qualified for a spot on the ballot in May.

With Hartzok running unopposed for the Democratic nomination, she will face the winner of the three-way race between Shuster, Schooley and Halvorson in the November general election.