HOLLIDAYSBURG - Gadsden and miniature American flags whipped the air as about 70 people stood at the courthouse steps for the Blair County Tea Party's fifth annual Tax Day rally on Monday.
Although a microphone was muffled by the wind, their message rang clear: the American people are overburdened by taxes.
Blair County Tea Party Vice President Andrew Katz was on hand to introduce Art Halvorson, 57, a Manns Choice resident who announced at the rally he will establish a campaign exploratory committee to mount a 2014 primary challenge against U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-9th District.
Halvorson, a retired U.S. Coast Guard captain who moved to Manns Choice in 2007 after 29 years of service to open his own business, told the crowd he isn't out to make a career out of politics. He said a burning fire rose within him, and he decided to "answer the call."
He said Shuster lists himself as a Republican, but he quoted the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to say Shuster's conservatism has "gone wobbly," citing a Heritage Foundation report stating the representative votes conservatively only 50 percent of the time.
Halvorson said he plans to spend the next 30 to 60 days meeting people and gauging support before he makes an official bid for the seat.
He also said he knows how much he would invest in the race should he run but is not disclosing the amount.
Scott Soisson, a local Sheetz information technology analyst and Air National Guard veteran, relied on quotes from Presidents Thomas Jefferson, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan, as well as British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, to deliver his message on taxes and freedom.
"The Founding Fathers would not be pleased" to know what happened to the tax system, where citizens are paying so much without knowing where their money is being spent.
Businessman and WRTA talk show host Dave Barger gave a 23-minute speech on the tax code, attacks from liberal outlets on conservatism and "lifer" politicians.
He encouraged attendees to celebrate April 18, Tax Freedom Day, which is the day when Americans have earned enough to pay their tax bills for the year, according to the Tea Party.
Barger told the crowd they'd pay more in taxes this year than they would spend on food, clothing and shelter combined and said the real threat isn't coming from Democrats or Republicans, but members of what he called the incumbent party.
He said people call Tea Party members radicals, but he asked the attendees whether they got involved and whether they showed up to the rally because they're radical or because they're patriots.
"We're patriots!" he announced to cheers.
Mirror Staff Writer Kelly Cernetich is at 946-7520.