Voters always lament the fact that ordinary and sincere citizen legislators can never get elected to Congress. Everyone wants to know why true public servants who are committed to the Constitution instead of special interests never run for Congress, and why the few who do are defeated. Conservatives in particular want to know why reliable constitutionalists can’t win primaries.
For answers to those vexing questions, look no further than the race in Pennsylvania’s 9th Congressional District.
In 2014, with no help from most professional conservatives, Art Halvorson challenged Bill Shuster, R-Pa. (F, 47%) the epitome of everything that is wrong in Washington, for the seat he has held in southwest Pennsylvania since taking it over from his father 15 years ago. Art is everything many Republican voters perceive in Trump, except he is actually an iron-clad constitutionalist, lover of liberty, served 29 years in the Coast Guard as a search-and-rescue helicopter pilot, has been married to his wife for 34 years, has 6 children, and is a devout Christian.
Living a comfortable life on his beautiful farm in God’s country while managing several real estate investment companies, the last thing Halvorson wanted or needed from life was to have his character destroyed in a bid for Congress. But so many of us complain about the system and never put skin in the game. So with the understanding that we need real men on the field to force a change in the system, Halvorson put in $200,000 of his own money into a bid for Congress. Despite several million dollars thrown against him by Bill Shuster, Halvorson had a respectable showing in the 2014 primary.
In 2016, Halvorson sought a rematch, and was once again outspent by a factor of at least 10-1 by a man who embodies the pay-for-play endemic of the party leaders that so many Republican voters resent. Shuster used his superior firepower to run as a conservative and paint Halvorson as liberal and corrupt (yes, the projection knows no bounds), but won the primary by just 1,000 votes. That’s right: a former Coast Guard Captain came within 1,000 votes of unseating the sitting Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman! Halvorson came closer than anyone this year to defeating an incumbent RINO.
In a wild twist of fate, a number of Democrat voters wrote in Halvorson’s name for the Democrat nomination during the primary (no candidate filed to run as a Democrat in this heavily conservative district). Thanks to Pennsylvania law, Halvorson was able to get on the general election ballot as a Democrat, even though he challenged Shuster from the right during the GOP primary. Given that he was the write-in candidate with the most votes from Democrat voters, Halvorson was deemed to have won the Democrat primary, although he never solicited their votes.
Anyone else would have given up at this point, and indeed I tried to convince Halvorson as a friend that it was not worth it to run another campaign. After all, the House is a miserable place to be anyway. But he was determined to demonstrate that an ordinary American could win as an independent conservative and defeat a corrupt political dynasty.
After accepting the Democrat nomination, Halvorson never changed his message. He was always an independent-minded conservative and still pledged to caucus with Republicans. It was Shuster and his millions of K Street dollars, on the other hand, that changed his message as needed.
— Art Halvorson (@ArtHalvorson) November 2, 2016
Shuster sent out mailers to Democrat voters saying that Halvorson was a “dangerous extreme right-wing tea party member.” He then sent mailers to Republicans portraying Halvorson as a liberal pro-amnesty Democrat in the mold of Pelosi and Obama! Yes, the fixture of the K Street open borders lobby who voted to fund Obama’s amnesty in 2014 accused his immigration hawk opponent of being pro-amnesty! One of the mailers also said Halvorson would send our troops back to Iraq, when ironically, Halvorson is part of the emerging conservative majority who believe the Iraq war was a mistake. There is no fear of God in the hearts of men like Bill Shuster.
RINOs like Shuster use the millions of dollars they receive — precisely because they are tools of the open borders, big government crowd —not to run on their authentic views but on our views. Then they paint their conservative challengers as liberals. Once the issues are off the table, they proceed to make the rest of the campaign about fallacious opposition hits in a race to the bottom of rung of the politics of personal destruction. That’s precisely why, in this mailer to Democrat voters, Shuster made a fake mug shot picture of Halvorson suggesting he should be in jail for an assault incident that he had his staffer completely fabricate. Meanwhile, Shuster knows that Halvorson has no money to fight back.
This, my friends, is why an ordinary American can never win and why conservatives can never win in GOP primaries. As I’ve said before liberal Republicans will never wear their team jersey while seeking your vote. They will steal our jersey and attempt to toss their dirty laundry on good and honest men.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.