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Shuster poised to prevail in 9th Congressional District

Paul Peirce
| Tuesday, April 26, 2016, 11:35 p.m.
Republican Art Halvorson
Republican Art Halvorson

Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster of Hollidaysburg appeared to narrowly escape an upset bid by a retired Coast Guard captain in Tuesday's primary election, virtually assuring him an eighth consecutive term representing the 9th Congressional District.

Shuster, 55, was labeled a political insider by Art Halvorson, 60, of Bedford County, who repeatedly criticized his personal relationship with Washington, D.C., lobbyist Shelley Rubino of Airlines for America.

Halvorson said Shuster has lost touch with his constituents and that he should resign over the relationship with Rubino.

Shuster countered that his relationship with Rubino is not a conflict of interest because he has a rule that she can't lobby him or his staff.

With 73 percent of the district's 540 precincts reporting, Shuster led by only 951 votes, taking 51 percent to Halvorson's 49 percent.

The winner of the Republican primary likely decided who will represent the district for the next two years because no Democrat ran in the primary.

The district includes Bedford, Blair, Fayette, Franklin, Fulton and Indiana counties and portions of Cambria, Greene, Huntingdon, Somerset, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

Shuster won a special election in 2001 following the resignation of his late father, U.S. Rep. E.G. “Bud” Shuster.

Shuster's well-funded campaign far outspent Halvorson's. He reported $2.6 million in contributions since 2015 and $1.6 million in spending through April 6, according to federal election commission filings. Halvorson reported $64,357 in contributions, a loan of $200,000 and $149,163 in spending.

During the campaign, Shuster touted his record of championing many capital improvement projects in the region and his clout as chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

He noted the transportation bill signed into law last year that funds the final section to connect Route 219 from Somerset to Interstate 68 in Maryland and his ongoing work finding federal money to repair and refurbish the aging locks and dams on the region's rivers. He said he is committed to working for funding to connect the Mon-Fayette Expressway to Pittsburgh.

In Allegheny County, Democrat Janis Brooks had hoped three would be her lucky number, but it wasn't.

The North Versailles pastor and community activist was unsuccessful in two prior attempts to defeat long-serving U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle of Forest Hills.

Her luck didn't change on Tuesday, according to unofficial election results.

Democrats in the 14th District stuck with Doyle, 62, who collected 76 percent of the vote, with 66 percent of precincts reporting.

Brooks, 66, received 22 percent.

U.S. House members serve two years and earn $174,000 a year.

The 14th District includes Pittsburgh and runs from <br/>Natrona Heights in the north to Clairton in the south and from Monroeville in the east to Moon in the west.

Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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