Shuster, DelGrosso cross-cross county in campaign stops

February 25, 2004|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - One candidate was scheduled to hit 10 counties, the other was well on his way to knocking on 10,000 doors and both were in Franklin County recently, running hard for the GOP nomination for the 9th District in the April 27 primary.

Incumbent Bill Shuster made two stops in Franklin County. The first was a luncheon address to the Rotary Club at the Lighthouse Restaurant near Chambersburg, the second was to a group that will not vote for him in either the primary or general election - Faust Junior High School students.

"Basically, I go through a job interview every two years," Shuster explained to the students at Faust.

Michael DelGrosso, who is challenging Shuster for the Republican nomination, worked a smaller audience Thursday night when he spoke to about 25 people attending a meeting of the Chambersburg Area Taxpayers Association at a local church.


"Yesterday, I knocked on my 9,000th door in Juniata County," DelGrosso said. "More than 1,000 have been right here in Franklin County, and I've been very well received."

DelGrosso said his goal was to knock on 10,000 doors of registered Republicans before the primary and he said about 60 percent of the time someone is home.

"For the people I didn't meet face-to-face, I follow up with a phone call," he said.

"We have a Republican Congress that seems addicted to spending," said DelGrosso, who worked for a consulting firm that advised federal agencies on cutting waste before he became a candidate. "I'd be a more fiscally conservative voice on the budget and health-care issues," he said.

DelGrosso said his background in a family business and the U.S. Naval Academy and as a consultant to the government give him stronger credentials than Shuster, who owned a car dealership before winning the seat in a special election after his father, Bud Shuster, resigned in 2001.

He conceded that both men "generally have the same beliefs, generally would vote the same way," but he believes he could be more effective in Congress.

Both men talked about Letterkenny Army Depot, which faces possible closure when the Base Realignment and Closure Commission meets in 2005. DelGrosso said he was to tour the depot Friday to learn more about its operations.

"Do you support gay marriages?" ninth-grader Summer Marlar asked Shuster.

Shuster said he did not and supports a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. He told her there are other ways for people to "legally unite" short of marriage.

The congressman also told the classes of American history and government students his role as a legislator, in constituent service and as a politician.

"Any challenger is going to lose the endorsement name game," DelGrosso told the taxpayers group.

While he was just endorsed by the mayor of Altoona, the district's largest city, he said Shuster will be able to attract more endorsements from elected officials, as well as campaign contributions.

DelGrosso believes he can put together the numbers to defeat Shuster. His home county of Blair has about a quarter of the district's registered voters and he expects to run strongly in Franklin, which has about 16 percent of the vote.

A third of the district was added through reapportionment following the 2000 census and knows little of either man, he said.

"This seniority thing is a nonissue," he said, referring to an incumbent having more influence than a rookie congressman.

"If I win this election - and I intend to win - there are going to be 434 other members of Congress who'll know who Michael DelGrosso is," he said.

In a district where Republicans have an edge of about 2-to-1 over Democrats, the primary will likely be more important than the general election, even though there is a Democrat, Paul Politis of Greencastle, Pa., in the running, DelGrosso said.

"This is the main event," he said.

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