Tea Party candidate hopes to run as a Democrat to oust GOP chairman

Anne Wernikoff

Tea Party insurgent Art Halvorson isn’t giving up on his years-long bid to oust Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) from Congress, despite suffering a primary defeat last week.

{mosads}But Halvorson’s last-ditch effort to take down the powerful House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman doesn’t involve a recount. Instead, the complicated plan will attempt to consolidate Democratic write-ins for Halvorson’s name in an effort to run as the Democratic candidate this fall.

“What a crazy political year it is,” Halvorson said in a telephone interview with The Hill. “Why not something like this, going after the Transportation chairman?”

Halvorson, a real estate investor and retired Coast Guard captain, just narrowly lost to Shuster last month, 49.5 percent to 50.5 percent. It was the difference of 1,009 votes, but he conceded the race.

That’s a much slimmer margin than in the 2014 primary, when Shuster trounced Halvorson, 53 percent to 34 percent.

Halvorson is looking to expand on the momentum he built this cycle, partly fueled by Shuster’s relationship with a top airline lobbyist.

He says his campaign is using 1,060 write-in votes for Halvorson from registered Democrats to argue that he should be the Democratic candidate in the general election. Pennsylvania is a closed primary state.

Democrat Adam Sedlock mounted a last-minute write-in effort, but Halvorson claims he doesn’t have enough votes.

The threshold to do that is over 1,000, Halvorson says. But his campaign is still in the process of appealing to three to four more counties in order to verify that the write-in votes were in fact in support of Halvorson.

Once all the votes are verified, then the state of Pennsylvania would have to declare him an eligible Democratic candidate, which Halvorson would accept.

“I don’t know if this has ever been done before,” Halvorson acknowledged.

If all of these steps seem like tall orders, they pale in comparison to the uphill battle Halvorson would face in trying to mobilize conservative voters and communicating to them that he is running as a Republican on the Democratic ticket and would serve as a GOP member in Congress.

Getting conservatives in the district — one of the reddest in the state — to vote for him on the same ticket as Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential front-runner, would be no easy task.

Shuster crushed the Democratic candidate in the 2014 general election, 63.5 percent to 36.5 percent.

“It’s not really surprising to see Art Halvorson reject and ignore the will of the voters. He’s proven that he will do and say anything to get elected,” said Shuster’s spokesman Casey Contres. “While Art Halvorson challenges the courts to allow him to join the Hillary Clinton ticket, Congressman Shuster will be working hard to elect Donald Trump, whom Art Halvorson has called reprehensible, childish, and embarrassing, to the White House.”

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