Rep. Shuster doesn't scare this Democrat

January 18, 1998

Rep. Shuster doesn't scare this Democrat


Staff Writer

McCONNELLSBURG, Pa. - Paul Politis, a former newspaperman, now a small businessman from Fulton County, took on a Herculean task this month when he announced that he will run against 9th District Congressman Bud Shuster, the entrenched, popular Republican who has won every election since 1972.

So formidable is Shuster that few challengers from either party have ever run against him. The conservative Shuster, chairman of the powerful House Transportation Committee, walloped his last challenger, Monte Kemmler, a Mifflin County Democrat, two years ago.

So far this year Shuster has two Democratic challengers - John Henry, 37, of Bedford County, an even stauncher conservative than Shuster who claims Shuster has become too liberal for 9th District voters; and Politis, 49, whose only political experience is the Forbes Road School District seat he's held onto for 15 years.


Politis is jumping into the fray with both arms swinging at Shuster.

He said in announcing his candidacy that as a young reporter for the Chambersburg Public Opinion newspaper, he covered a news conference during Shuster's first campaign in 1972.

"Shuster blew into town proclaiming that he believed in people. We didn't realize it at the time that his meaning was in the same sense that little children believe in Santa Claus - as a way of getting gifts and money for himself.

"I've got to show the voters that any decent person who can be shown the way Shuster has been behaving over the years has got to want a change. I need to get their attention and prove that I can wage a respectable, viable and winnable campaign on a shoestring budget."

The 9th District covers nine counties and parts of two others in a pie-shaped wedge of south central Pennsylvania bordered in the south by Franklin, Fulton and Bedford counties and narrowing to one county north of Interstate 70.

It has about 565,000 residents and a Republican registration plurality of nearly two to one.

Politis has little money and doubts his ability to raise much.

"When I was in the Lions Club I had problems selling raffle tickets for a dollar," he said.

He has no political organization yet, but has scheduled meetings with Democratic leaders across the district.

His official campaign vehicle is his 1996 Honda Civic coupe, which he said gets about 43 miles per gallon.

"At least I won't be spending much on gasoline," he said.

Politis said Kemmler spent about $80,000 in his 1996 campaign, about half from his own pocket. Shuster spent $1.2 million to ward off Kemmler's challenge, Politis said.

"He spent $3.6 million in his last five elections," Politis said.

"Anything can happen in an election. I know I can't beat him with a normal campaign, but I can match Shuster in competence and intelligence. I'll have to show the voters that I'm for the people and that he's for big business and special interests," Politis said.

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