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Conservative congressional candidate switches parties to take on moderate Republican

Hoping to make the most of an election in which party loyalty and unity is at an historic low, one Pennsylvania Republican is hoping to beat a member of his own party by running as a Democrat.

Bedford County resident Art Halvorson lost a hard-fought primary battle against incumbent Rep. Bill Shuster in a district that has not been represented by a Democrat in more than 80 years. Instead of simply accepting defeat, however, Halvorson saw another potential path to victory.

After staging a successful write-in campaign ahead of the Democratic primary, the retired Coast Guard captain is now set to take on Shuster in a general election.

Halvorson said he sees this election season and his home district as two factors that could spell an unconventional victory for him.

“Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump are holding fast to the long-standing orthodoxy of their respective parties,” a statement on his campaign site read. “Today’s political divide is more about the conflict between an arrogant ruling elite in both parties against the interests of the vast majority of the population who simply want to live their lives, raise their families and contribute to their communities without being bossed around by Washington’s power brokers.”

As for his heavily Republican district, Halvorson noted the prevalence of Reagan Democrats. Many of these voters, he claimed, switched party affiliation to support him in the primary election.

Describing himself as a Christian conservative aligned with tea party values, Halvorson said he felt compelled to throw his hat in the ring to take on a congressman whose record he believes is too moderate.

From Shuster’s perspective, however, Halvorson is “betraying Democrats by calling their party godless while forcing them to accept him as their nominee” while “also betraying the will of the Republican voters that have twice rejected his attempt to get a job in Congress.”

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