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Two seek Shuster's seat

January 10, 2001

Two seek Shuster's seat



By RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro


McCONNELLSBURG, Pa. - Fulton County Treasurer Bonnie Mellott Keefer and state Rep. Patrick Fleagle officially announced Wednesday that they would seek their party's nomination to succeed 9th District U.S. Rep. Bud Shuster, R-Pa.

Keefer, a Republican, said she has been thinking about a run for Shuster's seat for more than a year and had planned to wait until he retired.

"Sooner or later Bud will reach the age when he wants to retire," she said. "I decided that if the opportunity ever arose, I would run."

Keefer has been county treasurer for nine years. She worked as a corporate accountant and taught school. An avowed abortion opponent and a National Rifle Association member, Keefer is married and has four children ages 3 to 24.

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"I don't know if we'll all be brought up for consideration (before the Republican Party delegates), but I would like to be considered," Fleagle said Wednesday.

Fleagle, R-Waynesboro, ran unopposed in November for his seventh term covering the 90th District in southern Franklin County.

He said he expects that at least a dozen people will express interest in the seat.

"This will give a lot of candidates an equal chance. If there was an open primary people would spend an obscene amount of money and that would rule out a lot of good people," he said.

The names of other Franklin County politicians being mentioned as possible contenders include State Rep. Jeff Coy, D-Shippensburg, State Sen. Terry Punt, R-Waynesboro, and Republican G. Warren Elliott, president of the Franklin County Commissioners.

Punt, in a press release Wednesday, said he expects to make a decision early next week on whether to go for Shuster's job. He said he would have to give up 22 years seniority in the Pennsylvania House and his chairmanship of the important Community and Economic Development Committee. He said that he has to consider that sometime this year Pennsylvania's congressional boundaries will be redrawn. The state is losing two congressional seats as a result of the 2000 census.

Shuster, until this year, was chairman of the powerful House Transportation Committee. He was elected to his 15th term in November. His surprise resignation came one day after he was sworn in for his new term.

Shuster said he is leaving Congress because of concerns over his health and that of his wife. He is backing his son, William Shuster, as his successor.

Franklin County is the second largest in the 11-county, traditionally Republican 9th District, the most conservative congressional district in the state. Fulton is the smallest county is the district. Blair County, home of the city of Altoona, is the largest.

Size is significant because each county sends one representative to the committee that will choose their respective party's nominee per 1,000 votes cast for president in the last election.

Fulton County will send three delegates. Franklin will send 33, Keefer said.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge will call a special election for Shuster's replacement. The assumption is that Ridge will schedule the election to coincide with Pennsylvania's primary on May 22.

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