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Shuster faces challenge in GOP primary

April 20, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - For more than three decades, Shuster has been a brand name in Pennsylvania politics, while DelGrosso has been a brand name on supermarket shelves for half a century.

On Tuesday, April 27, Republican voters in the 9th Congressional District will decide which name they want to represent them in the Nov. 2 general election - incumbent Bill Shuster or challenger Michael DelGrosso.

Shuster, 43, of Hollidaysburg, Pa., was elected in 2001 in a special election after his father, Bud Shuster, resigned following 29 years in Congress. DelGrosso, 33, of Tipton, Pa., whose family is known for producing spaghetti sauces and other foods as well as owning an amusement park, is making his first run for political office.

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The 9th District includes all of Franklin and Fulton counties and all or part of 13 other Pennsylvania counties.

Both men have master's of business administration degrees, Shuster's from American University and DelGrosso's from the University of Michigan.

"I've demonstrated I'm able to produce for the people of the country and the 9th District," Shuster said recently. "This campaign comes down to experience. I have experience and my opponent doesn't have experience."

"There are a handful of congressmen from Pennsylvania that you can count on as fiscal conservatives ... I want to be one of those voices," DelGrosso said.

"Bill Shuster's name doesn't come up on that list of leaders or any other list of leaders," he said.

Shuster said his goals for the next two years are jobs, strengthening the military and homeland security and working with local officials to attract new businesses.

"That's what I've been doing for the past three years and that's what I'm going to continue to do," he said.

"The biggest priority, because it's what I've heard the most, is the jobs situation," DelGrosso said.

In recent years, he said Pennsylvania has "lagged tremendously, ranking 49th out of 50 states in job growth" and leading the nation in the loss of people under 35 to other states.

Specifically, Shuster wants to preserve the tax cuts approved by Congress during the first three years of the Bush administration.

"Most of them are grandfathered," said Shuster. "Some expire in 2005 and some don't expire until 2011."

The elimination of the inheritance tax and child tax credits, he said, have helped small businesses survive and allowed families to keep and spend more of their money as they see fit, "not what some federal bureaucrat wants to do with those dollars."

"It doesn't take a lot of initiative to vote on a bill" to lower taxes, said DelGrosso. "There are things a congressman can do right at home by coordinating with local officials" to make southcentral Pennsylvania more business-friendly and to create more jobs, he said.

"After the highway bill is passed this summer, I'll have brought more than $100 million in federal dollars to the people of the 9th District," said Shuster, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. As for the projected $500 billion federal deficit, Shuster said he has voted to decrease spending and "my opponent has never voted for anything in Congress."

A 1994 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, DelGrosso has knocked on the doors of more than 10,000 Republican households in his bid for the GOP nomination.

Shuster said he has stayed in touch with constituents, holding more than 90 sessions with district residents at offices throughout the district.

Both men have experience in the private sector, Shuster as the owner of a car dealership and DelGrosso with TRW Automotive and with a firm that consulted with government agencies on cutting waste.

DelGrosso said although he is being outspent by Shuster in the campaign he believes he can win.

He said his home county of Blair has about a quarter of the district's Republican voters, followed by Franklin County, where he said Shuster failed to get more than half the vote in the three-way 2002 primary. About a third of the voters in the district are new because of reapportionment after the 1990 census and both candidates are new to them, he said.

Shuster said he is counting on his record to get him re-elected.

"My opponent is asking people to trust him on the promises he's making. I'm asking the people of the 9th District to judge me on the promises I've kept," he said.

The winner of the GOP primary likely will face Paul I. Politis of Greencastle, Pa., in the November general election. Politis mounted a brief campaign against Bud Shuster in 1998 before withdrawing after supporters of the elder Shuster challenged his nominating petitions.

Politis is the lone Democrat running in the primary.

The position pays $154,700 per year, according to the U.S. Congress Web site.

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