Tea Party candidate will run as Democrat in bid to oust GOP chairman

Tea Party candidate will run as Democrat in bid to oust GOP chairman
© Greg Nash

Tea party insurgent Art Halvorson has decided to run as a Democrat this fall in an effort to oust House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), adding a new twist in the powerful lawmaker’s reelection bid.

The largely unprecedented move was made possible after Halvorson secured enough write-in votes from Democrats during the April primary.

“I’m deeply humbled by the coming together of voters in both parties for the critical, common goal of rescuing America from the corrupt career politicians who’ve betrayed our conservative values and sold us up the river to corporate lobbyists,” Halvorson said in a statement Tuesday.

Halvorson, a real estate investor and retired Coast Guard captain, narrowly lost to Shuster in April, 49.5 to 50.5 percent. It was a 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 to 34 percent.

“By running for Congress as a Democrat after beating the other Democrat by 41 votes in the primary, Art Halvorson has proved that he cares about one thing and one thing only – himself," said Casey Contres, a campaign spokesman for Shuster. "Not only is he betraying Democrats by calling their party Godless while forcing them to accept him as their nominee, but he is also betraying the will of the Republican primary voters that have twice rejected his attempt to get a job in Congress."

Halvorson built plenty of momentum this cycle, seizing on reports of Shuster’s relationship with a top airline lobbyist. Halvorson also pointed to Shuster's fundraising from “deep-pocketed special interests” instead of small donors, painting him as a Washington insider.

Halvorson began petitioning counties to accept the over 1,000 Democratic write-ins for his name in an effort to run in the general election in the fall.

After Pennsylvania declared him an eligible Democratic candidate — pushing out Democrat Adam Sedlock, who also mounted a write-in campaign but didn’t have as many votes — Halvorson weighed the prospect for weeks before making his final decision.

Halvorson has emphasized that he will remain a registered Republican.

“But make no mistake about it, our current struggle isn’t Democrat vs. Republican, it’s Insiders vs. We the People,” he said.

Consolidating the Democratic write-in votes was just the first hurdle, however. Now, Halvorson faces the challenging task of 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 ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate Heller embraces Trump in risky attempt to survive in November Live coverage: Cruz, O'Rourke clash in Texas debate MORE, the Democratic presidential nominee, will be no easy feat.

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

"Art Halvorson’s disgraceful and false personal attacks along with his Arlen Specter impression will get him what he deserves – a third defeat to Congressman Shuster in November," Contres said.