From looking at the media coverage of the House race in Pennsylvania’s 9th District, Republican candidate Travis Schooley says it’s hard to get an impression of how successfully his campaign has been going. Choosing to not participate in political ad wars, Schooley instead runs his campaign in a very much grassroots fashion.
“We’ve worked hard, very hard, and we’re on the ground,” he asserts.
He brings up how both of his opponents, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Blair) and Art Halvorson, have conducted polls.
“Shuster must have done half a dozen,” Schooley says, “but none of the results have been released.” Halvorson and CPAC, he says, have also quietly conducted their own polls, but with little to no fanfare that one might expect from a candidate happy with the responses.
“If you were winning in the polls,” Schooley points out, “wouldn’t you want to release the results?”
When talk turned to the amateur poll his campaign conducted in February, Schooley says he believes the poll “had merit.” This is despite the fact that Halvorson called him out for not specifically naming him throughout the telephone canvassing Schooley’s campaign did. One of the main reasons?
“We found that few people knew his name,” Schooley shrugs, hence the listing of “Another Candidate” beneath Shuster and Schooley’s names. So, that meant that there was still a third candidate choice.
“But,” and here Schooley leans forward slightly, “it was the only poll in five months released that allowed for the people’s response to three candidates.”
Schooley also claims that recent mailings from the Shuster campaign point toward the incumbent attempting to divide his opposition equally. Building upon Halvorson’s alleged lack of name recognition, Schooley believes Shuster is spreading Halvorson’s name around and, combining that with his own success, Schooley says this will split those voters against the incumbent right down the middle.
“It goes against field efforts,” Schooley says, “and all we can do is work harder.”
One of the biggest reasons Schooley feels he could most accurately represent the 9th District is because of his and his family’s long history in the area.
“It’s the most basic idea, the people elect one of themselves,” he says sagely. He brings up the sizeable amount of his family who live within the district, and how he would be proud to represent them in the House.
Halvorson and Shuster, he says, don’t have near the amount of familial history in the area that he does.
“They wouldn’t care as much.” And, though Shuster’s father, former Rep. Bud Shuster, represented the district for many years before his son, Schooley maintains that Shuster just doesn’t have the “historical background” that he has.
Running for the Pennsylvania House has “been on me for a number of years,” the former military man remarks, and he freely admits that he feels something needs to change. These are the main reasons why he decided to run. “Everything I’ve done has been a contributing factor.”
Speaking of which, Schooley has attempted to run for this seat before, namely in the 2012 election leading up to the primary. Then, however, he was forced to drop out. As a result of a petition challenge, a judge ruled that only 987 of the 1,045 signatures received were valid, thereby leading up to the disqualification. So, what makes this time different?
“I wasn’t fully committed in the past,” Schooley admits. Perhaps made clear by his successful attempt to get his name on the ballot this time around, it appears that Schooley has changed his tune. “I’m convinced something positive will come out of it.”
Moving on to a closer examination of his two opponents, Schooley maintains the point of view that both are “outsiders” when it comes to the 9th District. While he tries to stay away from negativity, he says that he is all about stating the facts.
In regards to Shuster, Schooley says that he’s good at being a politician. Responding to Halvorson’s claims that Shuster isn’t conservative enough, Schooley says that it depends on how you look at the situation.
“There’s evidence in both directions,” he says carefully. In comparing himself to the incumbent as a potential leader, Schooley claims that he doesn’t care so much about rising in the ranks.
“I want to be effective for the people in the district,” he says, adding that he doesn’t get the impression that Shuster works very hard in that department.
With Halvorson, Schooley says that it’s “interesting” how the media tend to side with him against Shuster. “Is it a matter of money?” He shrugs. Though Schooley does definitively say that people in the area don’t know Halvorson, and may be cautious about him. Because he isn’t from the district, Schooley says, “I can’t think he’d hold the people and their future highly.”
Schooley’s experiences that would help him in representing the 9th District go far beyond his family history. For as long as Shuster has been in Congress, he says, he’s been working at the local government level. During this time, Schooley says he’s learned a lot about working around the “red tape” and regulations in order to increase development in the community in areas such as public utilities, schools and hospitals.
“I typically work with at least two dozen different agencies on a regular basis,” he says with a slow nod. “So that’s why,” with a laugh, “I think I’m a great man for the job.”
Schooley says he is the only candidate in the race who has local level experience, making him more aware of how various policies will impact the local government. This, he says, is his distinct advantage.
“I’ve always lived here,” he says, “I always will live here.”
Currently, Schooley is raising his three young children, all between the ages of one and four, with his wife, Jill.
Regarding the ever-popular question dominating PA-9 interviews: would he be up for a debate?
“Absolutely,” he responds, very willing to participate in a three-way debate with Shuster and Halvorson.