November 9, 2016 11:30 AM, EST

House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster Fends Off Tea Party Opponent

Pete Marovich/Bloomberg News

After nearly losing his seat in the Republican primary earlier this year, Rep. Bill Shuster, the top transportation policymaker in the U.S. House, was easily re-elected to a ninth term.

For Shuster, the victory means another two years to lead the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee as the panel gears up to reform freight and water infrastructure programs. Shuster also indicated he would play a significant role in crafting a long-term funding fix for highway programs. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) stressed before the elections a long-term funding plan for transportation would be part of the outlook for 2017.

Shuster took down tea party-backed Art Halvorson on Nov. 8, winning 63% of the vote. Halvorson collected 37%, the Associated Press reported. Shaking Halvorson’s challenge proved difficult for Shuster this year.

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In the Republican primary, the pesky Halvorson came within less than a point in his attempt to tumble the incumbent. Halvorson sought to depict Shuster as an immoral Washington insider for his recent personal relationship with an aviation lobbyist. To go up against Shuster in the general election, Halvorson won a write-in Democratic slot. Despite the party switch, Halvorson remained loyal to tea party Republicans.

To bounce back from the brink, Shuster declared his allegiance to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and promoted his legislative resume and family values. During his chairmanship, the transportation panel advanced a five-year highway bill signed into law in December. The law, the FAST Act, authorized additional funding for projects that advance freight connectivity.

Shuster also ran myriad television ads declaring his affection for his family.

The fundraising advantage went Shuster’s way. He outraised Halvorson by more than $3 million. Transportation and freight industries strongly supported Shuster’s candidacy. The political action committees for CSX Corp., Con-way Inc., Cummins Inc., the National Asphalt Pavement Association and American Trucking Associations injected many thousands of dollars to his campaign committee.

Halvorson’s campaign relied primarily on small donations. Halvorson had advocated for shrinking federal funding for transportation programs, a position that was anathema to Shuster.

The rural southwest 9th District has been represented by a Shuster for several decades. Bud Shuster, Bill’s father, was chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in the House until his retirement in 2001.