The race for Congress in PA-9 is getting crowded.
Travis Schooley, a Franklin County businessman and U.S Army veteran, has announced his intention to become the second challenger against Congressman Bill Shuster (R-Blair). Schooley tried to run in 2012 but was forced to drop out when his ballot signatures were challenged.
“Bill Shuster is not an authentic conservative, because he is not conservative in all regards…” Schooley wrote in his announcement. “It is time to have one of our OWN to REPRESENT, SERVE, and DEFEND.”
Schooley joins businessman Art Halvorson, who announced in May that he will run against the seven-term congressman in the Republican primary.
He had harsh things to say about both candidates in a campaign release, both of whom he painted as carpetbaggers.
“Bill Shuster moved here in junior high and the third candidate, Art, moved here in 2007,” the campaign release reads. “We have to ask ourselves, why do those with Washington D.C. insider connections keep moving into our district to run for Congress? What is wrong with our own people, that we should elect outsiders to lead us in the halls of Congress?”
Schooley claims to have known ancestors in the area dating back to 1765, and says he has “literally thousands of blood relatives in (the) district.”
If all three candidates make it to the ballot, Shuster is the most likely beneficiary of Schooley’s candidacy. The Congressman has not faced a serious opponent in any recent elections. The presence of two challengers would split the anti-Shuster vote.
Halvorson said he’d met with Schooley and seemed to hold out hope that Schooley would decide to not pursue a bid.
“I had the pleasure of speaking and praying with Travis at the Blair County Tea Party rally on July 4. We both agreed to proceed with our campaigns at the time, but that we would meet sometime down the road to discuss an agreeable strategy that would most effectively allow an authentic conservative to represent the people of Pennsylvania’s ninth district,” Halvorson told PoliticsPA.
He had only nice things to say.
“I am encouraged that great Americans like Travis are willing to answer the call to public service. I also believe I am answering that call as we move forward with our campaign.”
Shuster’s campaign is not showing any concern for his primary opponents. Campaign Manager Sean Joyce emphasized Shuster’s GOP bona fides.
“Congressman Shuster continues to focus on promoting conservative solutions for the challenges facing Pennsylvanians. From voting to repeal Obamacare, cutting taxes for 99 percent of our working families, and reigning in the out-of-control IRS, Congressman Shuster has a proven conservative record,” Joyce told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “[Shuster] is not concerned with D.C. special interest groups attempting to cloud the minds of southwestern Pennsylvanian voters.”
But the odds are, if Schooley faces another challenge to his petition signatures, it won’t come from Shuster or his allies.
Update: Halvorson’s campaign categorically ruled out the possibility of challenging Schooley’s nominating petitions should both men remain in campaign.
“We’re not gonna play dirty politics to keep him out of the race,” Halvorson campaign manager Matt Derian said.