Candidate for U.S. House takes message to WyoTech
BURRELL TOWNSHIP — Art Halvorson, a candidate for the Republican nomination for Congress from the 9th District, toured WyoTech Friday in part because he considers Indiana County to be critical territory in the May 20 primary election.
But he also took the tour, he said, because WyoTech is a state-of-the-art training facility.
“And I’m interested in American competitiveness. And I see our country in decline and I’m running for Congress because I want to reverse that,” Halvorson said.
“I was a search and rescue helicopter pilot,” he continued.
“I, for 29 years, was part of a program that responded to distress, to people who were hurting and needed to be rescued. Our country needs to be rescued. I’m not going to do that on my own. But I want to be part of a team that has that same idea that we can turn this thing around. … I want to step in the arena and be part of a transformation that turns our country around.”
What is happening at WyoTech on a daily basis, he said, is a big part of that reversal.
“We’re not going to turn around midlevel people who are set in their ways,” he said. “But the young people, like the students at WyoTech, have an opportunity be reached.”
Halvorson is a retired Coast Guard captain, an entrepreneur and owner of four companies that hold and manage commercial real estate around the country. But what will help him most in being a congressman, he said, is his faith.
“I operate based on a faith in Jesus Christ, in biblical teaching, and Scripture is what guides me. That’s what formed my character and determined who I am and what I want to do,” he said.
All his other life experiences have allowed him to look at the world, analyze and solve problems and work with other people to solve problems.
“Leadership is not about doing it yourself. It’s about dealing with others who can, identifying those skills, bringing them together in a group and pointing them in a direction and turning them lose,” he said.
Halvorson said the federal government’s “fiscal cliff” episode of January 2013 was the “triggering event” that got him into the congressional race.
“I’m a Republican, and (the fiscal cliff) symbolized to me that our Republican Party no longer understood what was happening to our country,” he said. “I felt like our own party needed to be turned around because I felt we were the last best hope in the sense that our conservative foundation and our platform is the right approach. … Republicans still have an opportunity to be reached out to. We’ve lost our way and the fiscal cliff to me is a crystallizing moment that expressed that. … I saw we did not have the leadership in our party to take those values that are embodied in conservative principals and put them into place. I believe that what’s going on here (at WyoTech) is the embodiment, the application, of those conservative principles — teaching people how to be self-reliant, how to get out and do work and produce. So it’s all tied together economically and politically and educationally and spiritually.”
Halvorson said he believes America’s annual budget can be a balanced budget again in seven years. He said it took 42 years to get America to a national debt of $17.5 trillion, which he considers an “immoral condition.”
“We reached it because we have people serving in Congress who are willing to spend other people’s money without any concern for the return on that money or any restraint on the spending of that money. They’re happy to overspend an account and then ask for more money to supplement their irresponsibility.”
Halvorson said be believes in personal and political responsibility, and when he sees a person not operating by responsible principles, he feels it’s his responsibility to oppose that and offer a solution to it, which is an application of true conservative principles.
Halvorson wants the federal government out of education.
“I want to see private education flourish,” he said. “The government will always be involved in education but it doesn’t have to be at the federal level. I’m for de-federalizing, not removing all government. There’s a role for local and state government in education, and I support that, but even more than that it needs to be parents. And I understand … the condition of the family today is that you just can’t rely on parents being able to provide that.
“The federal government is one-size-fits-all,” and the 50 states should be allowed to figure out what’s best, educationally, for the people of each state, he said.
Halvorson has been critical of incumbent Rep. Bill Shuster’s support of the proposed Vehicle Mileage Tax.
“I call it track and tax,” Halvorson said, because under the legislation vehicles would be equipped with black boxes that would report to the IRS how far a person drives and they would be taxed based on that mileage.
Halvorson said that despite his nearly three decades of military service he doesn’t trust the federal government, adding, “I don’t trust the ability of the IRS to track (private vehicles). That’s not the federal government’s business.”
Mobility is key to the success of an economy and a nation, he continued. “And now we’re going to put a federal black box in every vehicle so that ostensibly we can tax them for how many miles they drive? … That seems to me to not only be regressive but it’s counterproductive to growing the economy, which is ultimately what we want to do.”
A Shuster campaign flier mailed to 9th District residents this week is critical of Halvorson for claiming to be a fiscal conservative, and yet accepting taxpayer subsidies for two farms he owns.
Halvorson called Shuster’s accusation “a half-truth.”
“He’s actually talking about my cousin’s farm (in Iowa) next door to my farm,” Halvorson said. “When he’s talking about a $500,000 subsidy, he’s got the wrong farm. … I get not a dime of subsidy on that farm.”
Halvorson’s other farm is in Bedford County, where he lives.
“When I bought that property in 2007, it came with a CREP (Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program for wildlife habitat) agreement in place, a 10-year contract initiated in … 2001 and 2002, a total of about 10 acres, about $50 a month I was receiving by virtue of leaving that contract in place and honoring the contract.”
Halvorson said his two alternatives were to pay back everything that had been paid in by the previous landowner, plus interest and fees, or allow the program to expire and transfer it into his name as the new property owner and collect the money and give it away.
“I chose to allow the contract to run,” he said, and gave the $2,500, plus an additional $2,500, to Habitat for Humanity.
Halverson graduated from the United States Coast Guard Academy in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree in economics and management. After serving on the Coast Guard cutter Mackinaw, an icebreaking ship, on the Great Lakes, he was accepted into the naval flight training program at Naval Air Station Pensacola. He went on to serve as a rescue helicopter pilot, flight instructor, test pilot and the commanding officer of Coast Guard Air Station Houston.
He earned master’s degrees at the College of William and Mary, in Williamsburg, Va., and at the U.S. Air War College, in Montgomery, Ala.
After a 29-year military career, he retired to Manns Choice, Bedford County, to pursue his business ventures full time.
He and his wife, Paula, have six children and six grandchildren.
Halvorson will be making more campaign stops around Indiana County today.
In addition to Halvorson and Shuster, Travis Schooley, of Waynesboro, Franklin County, is also a candidate for the Republican nomination in the 9th Congressional District that includes all or portions of Blair, Fayette, Greene, Washington, Westmoreland, Somerset, Indiana, Franklin, Fulton, Bedford and Huntingdon counties.