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Local men challenging incumbent Shuster in primary

May 16, 2002|BY STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Pa. - Two Chambersburg men are challenging U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster for the 9th District seat he has held for only a year in next week's Pennsylvania primary.

Republicans David E. Bahr, a Greene Township resident, and David Keller, a Hamilton Township resident, have both said they would like the district's representative to have closer ties to Franklin County.

The three men will be listed on Tuesday's ballot. The winner of the Republican primary will face John Henry of Breezewood, who is the only Democrat on the ballot, in the November election.

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The 9th District includes all or part of 14 counties, including Bedford, Blair, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Clearfield, Mifflin, Perry, Indiana, Somerset, Cambria, Cumberland and Fayette.

n Shuster, a former car dealership owner from Hollidaysburg, Pa., won a special election last May after his father, Bud Shuster, unexpectedly retired at the start of his 15th term.

Shuster said he hit the ground running his first year and has a long list of things he would like to tackle if elected to a second term.

"I want to continue to help provide tax relief for families and small businesses of America, especially in the 9th District," he said. "Let people keep their money."

He said job creation tops everyone's list of concerns.

"I think first and foremost it's about reducing the tax burden so companies and people who want to start businesses come here," Shuster said. "We also have to have a good education system for children and to re-educate workers for jobs of the 21st century, including access to Internet."

Shuster, 41, said he has spent the past year working to bring nearly $2 million to Franklin County for water projects, and he hopes to garner transportation funds for work on Interstate 81.

On a national scope, he hopes to see President Bush's faith-based initiative move forward. The bill that gives faith-based groups the ability to receive some federal funds is stalled in the Senate, he said.

Shuster said he feels good about what he has delivered for Franklin County in the last 12 months and is confident he has the support of residents, despite the fact his two opponents are locals.

"I have been told I have followed through. I think people will see that, and I will win Franklin County based on the fact I have done the job," he said.

n Bahr said he has also heard from residents throughout the 9th District that new jobs are essential for the region's growth, but he cautioned that a congressman alone cannot create jobs.

"What a congressman can do is create an environment through discussions and meetings with business and elective leaders of the district and then create a legislative package that will help promote the entrepreneurs to come into this district," he said.

Bahr, 63, spent 33 years in the military and civil service traveling around the country and overseas, including eight years as the civilian deputy commander of the U.S. Army Depot Systems Command headquartered in Chambersburg.

"I have been here for 17 years and believe I understand the needs of this district," Bahr said.

"From the national perspective, the voters are concerned about national defense, homeland security, health care, education and Social Security," he said. "At a local level, the overwhelming concern is about jobs. There has been an exodus of employers from this area. Some infrastructure has been delivered to the district. We now need someone who can use the baseline to deliver prosperity to the area."

Bahr said he wouldn't try to turn the office into a career, but rather serve two or three terms and make a difference for the district.

"I have had a successful career with government. I don't need to be doing this," he said. "I believe the people of the district need someone in Washington that can place principle above politics, put progress ahead of promises and headway ahead of headlines."

n Keller decided the best way to get to know the district and its voters was to put one foot in front of the other and walk through all 14 counties.

He has traveled more than 300 miles since he began his walking tour in late March.

No matter where he goes, he said the primary worries are jobs or the rising cost of prescription drugs.

"Small business owners I have been talking to on Main Street in different towns have commented quite frequently on rising health insurance premiums," he said. "They've mentioned that fact is keeping them from hiring more people even though they have a need for more people."

Keller said his solution is for the federal government to pick one state to do a pilot project, partnering with the state and local governments, the health care industry and insurance and pharmaceutical companies to come up with a solution to address the problem.

"I would like cooperation between public and private sectors to see if there is a workable solution. We may find what we have now is better than we create, but I have to believe there is something we can do to address these problems without raising taxes," he said.

Keller, 32, said this is his first run for office, but feels his youth and energy will translate into favorable representation in Washington.

"I care about where the 9th District is going and what our towns are going to be like 10 years from now and 20 years from now," he said. "I'm coming into this with perspective on where I think we want to go and no political baggage."

Keller is a 1987 Chambersburg Area Senior High School graduate and works as a computer network consultant for digitalSunrise in Chambersburg.

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