9th District race has implications beyond region

The hot topic on central Pennsylvania’s political scene is that U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-9th, will have competition for his party’s nomination in next spring’s primary election balloting.

It will be the first time Shuster will have a challenger from his own party since 2004, possibly even two challengers.

Already having thrown his hat into the proverbial ring is Art Halvorson, a wealthy real estate developer who served nearly 30 years in the Coast Guard and now lives in Manns Choices.

Also intending to challenge Shuster is Franklin County businessman Travis Schooley.

The prospect for such a race is a refreshing change for the district – and, more importantly, for the election process. A ballot with little or no competition discourages voters from going to the polls on Election Day.

Even with competition, voter turnout never is what it should be. Meanwhile, in some countries, people risk their lives when trying to vote.

All across America, even in Central Pennsylvania, a few raindrops or snowflakes – and many lesser reasons – keep many voters from venturing to their local election precincts.

Also a major cause of dull elections is legislative redistricting for the benefit of one or the other political party, but that’s an issue for another time.

The current issue at hand is that it’s good for politicians to have competition, to focus public attention on their strengths as well as weaknesses, and, if they end up being re-elected, to hopefully cause them to be better public servants – no matter how good they’ve been leading up to that time.

No elected official satisfies his or her constituents all of the time, and no elected official can accomplish anything of widespread impact without support from colleagues.

With that in mind, Shuster rightly will be emphasizing his seniority and clout in the U.S. House as he campaigns during the months leading up to next year’s primary.

If Shuster doesn’t get his party’s nomination in 2014, the 9th District will enter the next Congress at the bottom of the House seniority ladder. If he wins next spring, he would virtually be guaranteed re-election, because of the district’s big GOP registration edge.

But there are many people within Shuster’s own party who are willing to ignore the seniority issue because they don’t feel the incumbent is living up to their conservative beliefs, and that isn’t just happening in Pennsylvania’s 9th District.

The rise of the tea party movement has shaken the security that a number of important, longtime lawmakers have enjoyed for practically all of their elected careers.

As an article in Tuesday’s Mirror noted, the Shuster family is a political dynasty. Bill Shuster’s father, Bud, was the 9th District’s congressman for nearly 30 years and accomplished much, especially in the realm of transportation. And, like Bill Shuster up to now, Bud never faced stiff competition for the seat once he won it initially.

For the first time in a decade, because of the competition lining up against Bill Shuster, the 9th District race is attracting more than cursory national media attention.

If Shuster wins, that growing attention could position him as a more visible figure in national politics.

But the voters hold the key, and hopefully many more voters than otherwise will be attracted to the 9th District balloting.