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Exclusive Interview Aboard The Shuster Bus

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Chambersburg — The weather outside is unforgivably cold, even on the short walk across the street from the Franklin Volunteer Fire Company Hall, but the inside of Rep. Bill Shuster’s (R-Blair) bus is mercifully warm.

Shuster himself is ready for an interview, casually dressed before his evening rally and relaxing on the large couch that occupies most of the center wall of the bus. A few aides, including campaign manager Sean Joyce, are busy on their phones with the every-day business of running a campaign from the road.

“It’s been great,” Shuster said of his tour so far, despite the weather not always being on their side. Even with the snow and the cold, Shuster and his staffers manage to put in 12 to 13 hours each day on the tour, and he said that they’ve had great turnouts for each stop.

“But all in all, I feel really good about it, the reception that we’re getting,” he said.

When talk turned to the current state of Congress, Shuster said that it has been dysfunctional as of late. He blasted the Senate for refusing to take up over 40 bills that the House passed to stop or reform Obamacare, along with over 30 bills that deal with reducing taxes and regulations that promote jobs and economic growth.

“The Senate has not been working with us. We’ve tried, our leadership’s tried, to deal with the President, but there’s a huge amount of dysfunction in Washington,” Shuster said.

“I believe conservative principles: a limited government, a balanced budget,” he listed. “That’s the way to solve most of our problems.”

In recent election cycles, long days on the campaign bus haven’t been necessary for Shuster. He’s cruised to re-election over primary and general election opponents alike – when he’s had an opponent at all.

This year is different. The GOP primary for Pennsylvania’s 9th district has another name: former Coast Guard Capt. Art Halvorson.

Shuster defended himself against Halvorson’s claims that he is not conservative enough.

“It’s a relentless, negative attack full of half-truths and, quite frankly, misrepresentation of my record,” Shuster said.

“I think when you look at my record throughout my career in Congress, I’ve represented the district as a consistent conservative,” he said. Shuster cited his score from the American Conservative Union of 91% over his years in Congress. “Anybody that claims I’m anything other than a conservative doesn’t know what a conservative is.”

Franklin County veteran Travis Schooley is also in the race, although he isn’t expected to have significant financial resources. He sought a place on the ballot in 2012 but failed to secure the necessary signatures.

Shuster brushed off criticism that the 9th district has been home to a “Shuster Dynasty” for nearly 40 consecutive years. His father, former Rep. Bud Shuster, served in the House for 28 years before him.

He pointed out that thanks to redistricting, almost half of the 9th as it is today was not represented by his father. Shuster said that it shouldn’t matter whether his father had served in Congress before him as long as he continues to work hard and do the job that the people in the district elected him to do.

Walking into the room on the second floor of the fire hall before Shuster’s final rally of his bus tour begins after the interview, it seems as if everyone is readying themselves for a small party. People of all ages are milling around, chatting excitedly with their homemade signs and Shuster stickers.

One man near the back of the crowd is familiar: Art Halvorson.

Halvorson talking to voters at the Shuster rally
Halvorson talking to voters at the Shuster rally

“I wanted to acknowledge those that are participating here tonight,” Halvorson said. He said that he didn’t want to make a scene or anything, and that he wishes Shuster “the best of luck.”

Halvorson also briefly spoke about his traveling door-to-door in Franklin County earlier in the day and said that he had had a positive reception. “People are excited that they have a choice,” he said.

“He can’t buy this race, I can win it,” Halvorson said, mentioning that it’s just a matter of putting in work. He contributed $100,000 to jumpstart his race, but fundraising has flagged since. A surge of national conservative funds could put the race in play, but so far it’s been a trickle.

“His record isn’t conservative, and he just can’t turn on a dime,” Halvorson said. He also brought up Shuster’s water infrastructure bill and claimed that there was no reform in it. “All they did was revise and call that reform.”

Halvorson said that he believes he has a good chance at winning this race, as Shuster is “not a proven conservative leader.”

But Shuster’s advantage seemed clear when he entered to room to loud applause from the activists and officials who’ve known him for years.

5 Responses

  1. NSA, NDAA, SOPA, PIPA, CISPA, fiscal cliff, Cash For Clunkers, TARP, 13 debt ceiling increases, dozens of continuing resolutions that fund Obamacare, $8 billion water bill, and black boxes in our cars.

    Tell me again how that’s conservative? It is not negative nor desperate for a challenger to question the incumbent’s record. Shuster is just calling it negative because it will hurt him very badly if his votes in Congress become common knowledge in the 9th.

    He’s scared to death. No mercy, Art!

  2. His ACU rating for 2011 and 2012 is in the low 70 range. 2013 has not been released.
    Heritage action scorecard has him rated at 63. The average House Republican has a rating of 65.

  3. How conservative must one be in order to be considered a “conservative” by Halvorsons standards? 90% by the ACU is pretty strong.

  4. Bill Shuster is a nightmare for conservatives.
    He reminds me of Arlen Specter saying he wants small government but continues to authorize big spending bills. His red bus symbolizes out of touch elitists driving us off the fiscal cliff.

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