PA-15: Rep. Charlie Dent (R) is Retiring

Days after receiving a primary challenge from State Rep. Justin Simmons (R), moderate Rep. Charlie Dent (R) has announced he will not seek an eighth term. Dent, a moderate, was in the crosshairs of grassroots conservatives and Trumpists after prominently opposing some of Trump’s initiatives this year.

The decision opens up PA-15, an R+4 seat covering most of the Lehigh Valley as well as a long deep-red tail through rural areas to the eastern suburbs of Harrisburg. Simmons is obviously (for now) the clear front-runner for the GOP nomination. As this is a very establishment/machine-dominated area, it is very possible that Dent’s retirement was more triggered by a loss of support from party insiders than by poor polling. If Simmons can coalesce the establishment behind him he may clear the field. Alternatively, more moderate insider forces may still be looking for a different candidate. State Sens. Pat Browne (R) and Mike Folmer (R) and Northampton CE John Brown (R) could potentially fit that bill; at least a half-dozen other GOP state Reps. also live in the district, along with many local officials. Wizardof144 mentions State Rep. Ryan McKenzie (R) and Lehigh County commissioner Marty Northstein (R) as possibilities.

Democrats will certainly be looking at this district more carefully now that Dent will not be the GOP nominee, though it’s probably still at least a somewhat uphill battle for them. The Dem bench in this area is not great, particularly as the most prominent name, Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski (D), was just indicted this summer on corruption charges. State Sen. Lisa Boscola (D), Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez (D), and State Reps. Peter Schweyer (D), Robert Freeman (D), Steve Samuelson (D), Daniel McNeill (D), and Michael Schlossberg (D) live in or near the district and would likely be people to watch for the Democratic race. Ex-State Rep. Jennifer Mann (D), who retired in 2012 but is only 48 and previously ran for higher office, is also a possibility. Like the GOP side, it is likely to be decided by insiders and a seriously contested primary is very unlikely here.

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  • rdelbov September 7, 2017 at 7:06 pm

    A 45% Hillary does not look too promising for the Ds.

    • Son_of_the_South September 7, 2017 at 11:44 pm

      It’s more like 44.2% Hillary.

      24, R, TN-09
      Classical liberals are a minority. Fusionism is the answer.

      • rdelbov September 8, 2017 at 8:47 am

        And that is with a near record turnout in 2016. I suspect we will see lower numbers in 2018 in this district–far fewer younger voters.

        Frankly the economy will impact this race, and all other house races as well, and right now while not booming this area is doing okay.

        44.2% Hillary tells you what the D brand is worth in this seat. Oh my we will see a ton of spending but look at PA8 millions in 2016-they hardly move voters.

  • Tekzilla September 7, 2017 at 7:07 pm

    Do Democrats have any State Senators or Reps in the district? Do any of the 06-10 Wave Democrats live here?

    36/M/NY-01 (D)

    • HS September 7, 2017 at 7:35 pm

      Boscola is the only Dem state senator here. She is not a particularly good candidate. Probably a Dem state rep would be better.

      • TheWizardOf144 September 7, 2017 at 7:40 pm

        She does not live in PA 15 and wants to retire anyway.

  • MikeFL September 7, 2017 at 7:09 pm

    Definitely no longer likely R, probably borders between Tilt/Lean in this environment and goes down if next year is a Dem wave.

    26 | FL-16/27 | FisCon

    • rdelbov September 7, 2017 at 7:20 pm

      Looks like McGinty got about 43% of the vote in 2016 in this seat.

      The GOP, at most times, in PA seems to be one step ahead of the Ds. My guess is that the GOP ends up nominating a better candidate for the district then the Ds.

      I don’t get excited about Lean or Likely R at this time. Suffice it to say it will be contested but the McGinty-Hillary numbers don’t seem encouraging to the D side,

      • Tekzilla September 7, 2017 at 7:26 pm

        It’s an open seat somewhat competitive territory where a moderate incumbent will be replaced on the ballot by a more conservative non incumbent.

        Why in the world would democrats NOT be excited? Being excited doesn’t mean they think they are going to win it. But you need openings like this to have as broad a shot as possible to take the house back.

        36/M/NY-01 (D)

        • Izengabe September 7, 2017 at 7:53 pm

          This is bad news for the Democrats. There best case scenario would have been Dent losing a nasty Dent primary to Simmons that a damage general election candidate. GOP avoids that mess and can consolidate around new candidate.

          Follow me on Twitter: @Izengabe_

          • rdelbov September 7, 2017 at 8:03 pm

            I usually have three points so here goes

            1st for years local and congressional Rs have run ahead the national R brand. So Romney and Trump winning this seat is almost like the floor as congressional and legislative R candidates normally run ahead of local Ds.

            2nd Historically one reason for this R edge is that in congressional and Legislative seats the GOP has a reason of nominating more appealing candidates.

            3rd yup its a midterm. Still would rather have any R retire in a midterm year. There are so many more low information younger, minority and lower income less educated voters in Presidential year. Since years like 2006 can happen in PA but historically the blend of voters favors the GOP in midterms.

      • roguemapper September 7, 2017 at 8:15 pm

        PA-15 was also Toomey’s old district. Meanwhile, Casey got 50.2% in 2012, Kane got 51.6% in 2012, and Wolf got 49.7% in 2014. Democrats would be quite foolish not to seriously target this open seat in 2018.

        Dem NC-11

  • Boehnerwasright September 7, 2017 at 7:14 pm the article only has a source no direct statement. I would hold off until we have a second independent source or a formal statement.

    • Tekzilla September 7, 2017 at 7:26 pm

      Jmart confirms with Dent himself.

      36/M/NY-01 (D)

  • Vosmyorka September 7, 2017 at 7:17 pm

    Romney 51/48, Trump 52/44. Not quite safe, but Democrats have much better targets, including in Pennsylvania itself. Would put it at Leans R for now.

    Right-leaning anti-Trump Indy. OH-3. Male, Russoanglohispanophone.

    • Indy1975a September 7, 2017 at 7:26 pm

      Well you cannot let a district like this one go uncontested if you are the Ds. It’s a long shot, but certainly within the realm of possibility in a good D year.

      Independent, R until November 2016. Proud "Globalist Cuck"!

  • andyroo312 September 7, 2017 at 7:25 pm

    Lean R. Would probably be about the 10th seat Ds flip, after they’ve taken the House.


  • TheWizardOf144 September 7, 2017 at 7:39 pm

    State Rep. Ryan Mackenzie will run. Lehigh County Commissioner Marty Nothstein likely to run as well.

    Simmons will likely not get the establishment but still has a solid shot.

    • HS September 7, 2017 at 7:56 pm

      Ryan Mackenzie is a great guy. I will be pushing for him if he runs.

      • TheWizardOf144 September 7, 2017 at 8:10 pm

        Mackenzie met with NRCC yesterday. I broke the news Dent was retiring about 2pm.

        • rdelbov September 7, 2017 at 9:03 pm

          Looks like he would be a top tier guy—

          There is no doubt that this will be a battleground race in 2018. Type of seat Pelosi has to win to get to 218 but I think at the moment it still favors the Rs

  • TheWizardOf144 September 7, 2017 at 8:26 pm

    Mackenzie, not McKenzie.

  • HS September 7, 2017 at 8:31 pm

    Dent is probably the perfect example of going Washington. In 1998, when I knew him, he scared the incumbent state Senator into the Congressional where he (Afflerbach) lost to the largely unknown Pat Toomey. In 2004 Dent steamrolled over a weak opponent for an open seat to replace Toomey. But then he started picking fights, and it cost him.

  • TheWizardOf144 September 7, 2017 at 9:06 pm

    Pat Browne had a DUI (his…3rd? idk he’s had several) a couple years ago and his wife has a degenerative (will ultimately be fatal) illness. He isn’t running. I will be surprised if John Brown wins re-election this year. I doubt he runs for Congress.

    Boscola will not run either.

    NorCo GOP Chair Lee Snover is backing Simmons.

  • GerGOP September 7, 2017 at 9:13 pm


  • Ryan_in_SEPA September 7, 2017 at 9:17 pm

    Please people this is definitely not Lean R. It is solidly Likely R based on it being a borderline Trumpy district with very incompetent local Democrats coupled with several good arepublican candidates.

    31, PA-6, fiscally conservative communitarian, Giant Meteor 2020 - Just End It Already!

    • roguemapper September 7, 2017 at 9:59 pm

      The Donald got 51.8%. Do “Trumpy” districts start at 52% now? If I’m not mistaken you’ve stated that the 16th is highly competitive. The Donald got 51.1% there.

      Dem NC-11

      • Left Coast Libertarian September 7, 2017 at 11:17 pm

        A Trumpy district is any district where Trump did better than Romney. Trump doesn’t need to win a district to make it Trumpy. Romney won by 3. Trump won by 7. Trumpy districts will be ones with higher than average white working class voters and more rural than the average district.

        We’ve heard up until now that Republicans in districts Clinton won are vulnerable, regardless of the district’s normal tendencies. This district wasn’t won by Clinton and it’s not good territory for Democrats. In 2006 Dent won by 10 points and in 2008 he won by 17. And they took out Easton and put in some red suburbs of Harrisburg.

        Democrats should try because it’s an open seat but objectively this isn’t one they are likely to win.

        • roguemapper September 7, 2017 at 11:30 pm

          Mitt got 50.8% in 2012 so we’re not talking about a big difference! Anyway, I’m ok with the idea that this is a “Trumpy” district. HRC actually got 1000 more votes in PA-15 than Obama did in 2012. The difference in margin was that the Donald got 18,000 more votes than Mitt. Around election time last year the talk was about whether the Donald would inspire more irregular voters to vote. As it turns out, he did, at least in the Midwest. Now those irregular voters are suddenly supposed to become regular voters. I’m thinking they’re more likely to go right on back to being alienated and disaffected. That said, it’s just conjecture on my part. I’m very curious to see whether these “Trumpy” voters prove to be any more reliable in the future than they were before 2016.

          Dem NC-11

          • Left Coast Libertarian September 8, 2017 at 11:02 am

            When Barack Obama won a lot of new voters and had a different coalition in 2008 people speculated whether they’d vote Democratic. They didn’t really in the subsequent congressional elections but Obama got a lot of them in 2012. While Clinton did well with minorities in 2016 she didn’t get Obama level voting amongst Hispanics, Asians, and especially Blacks.

            Will the Trumpy voters vote for Republicans in 2018 and beyond? They did in 2016 but then the Obama voters voted Democratic in 2008. So, you pose a legit question we don’t have the answer to. A big difference is that Obama didn’t change the way people voted. He just did better at getting a group of voters to vote for him.

            Trump’s approval rating among those who didn’t vote for him in the primary but did in the general is, 66%. He has a 98% approval rating among voters who voted for him in the primary and general. That’s stunning. Trump simply can’t disappoint these people. In the past candidate disappointment is a big reason why they falter in mid-terms. Trump has broken the rules and I’m not sure what they are any more.

      • Ryan_in_SEPA September 8, 2017 at 8:05 am

        A candidate with Trump’s ideology without Trump’s antics would clear 55% in this seat.

        31, PA-6, fiscally conservative communitarian, Giant Meteor 2020 - Just End It Already!

        • VastBlightKingConspiracy September 8, 2017 at 9:24 am

          A candidate with Trump’s idealogy without Trump’s antics would clear 55% in this country.

          I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Republican.

          • roguemapper September 8, 2017 at 9:30 am

            And what exactly is the Donald’s ideology?

            Dem NC-11

            • HS September 8, 2017 at 9:50 am

              He doesn’t have one. But a candidate who had what Trump pretends to have – moderate conservative, doesn’t care about social issues, generally protectionist, concerned about excessive immigration, and in between a Bush hawk and a Rand Paul isolationist would do well in the district.

  • Tekzilla September 7, 2017 at 9:57 pm

    Jonathan Martinā€Verified account @jmartNYT 2m2 minutes ago
    Jonathan Martin Retweeted Jonathan Martin
    A third GOP pro texts to say he knows of more

    “not all are moderates. Conservatives are tired of this s*** too”Jonathan Martin added,

    Jonathan Martinā€Verified account
    Two GOP pros msg me to say re: House retirements – this only the start…

    36/M/NY-01 (D)

    • GerGOP September 7, 2017 at 10:13 pm

      The start? Seems like we already have some high turnover, but this might be me.

      • Vosmyorka September 7, 2017 at 10:18 pm

        It would be deeply amusing to have a bumper crop of House retirements even as literally zero Senators retire.

        Right-leaning anti-Trump Indy. OH-3. Male, Russoanglohispanophone.

      • krazen1211 September 7, 2017 at 10:27 pm

        Nah we have a ways to go.

        • Ryan_in_SEPA September 8, 2017 at 8:05 am

          Unless we have some late retirements, this is a pretty mild retirement cycle.

          31, PA-6, fiscally conservative communitarian, Giant Meteor 2020 - Just End It Already!

    • Republican Michigander September 8, 2017 at 9:53 am

      I expect a lot more retirements.

      I think people on this site underestimate how many people are just tired of DC period. Trump didn’t cause it, but won because of it. A lot of reps had enough before he even won. Trump just upset the applecart even further.

      I think the Scalise shooting may also be a factor.

      Even before all of that. When Mike Rogers retired, I asked four people that same day what their thoughts were. Three of them told me that day no. The quotes ranged from “no” to “not a chance.” The “not a chance” was from a guy the Kos people thought was running. I wasn’t going to correct them. šŸ™‚ The fourth person (who also had DC reservations) was out of town and was heavily courted by grassroots to run, and when he got back said no as well. Two of the people I talked to I think would have won if they ran, and that’s not meant as a slight against Bishop.

      MI-08 - Michigan is a red state again. We need a 50 state strategy and an 83 county strategy.

  • rdelbov September 7, 2017 at 10:42 pm

    I am thankful that the above review of house retirements only covers the last 40 or so years. While it is interesting to know how many retirements occurred in 1922 or 1930 I think just looking at the modern era is most useful. I for one think we have another dozen or so retirements to come. I think we get to 40 by next year.

    • roguemapper September 7, 2017 at 10:49 pm

      For the record, 1922 was relatively high in terms of retirements and 1930 was remarkably low all things considered. There were 40 House retirements in 1922 and just 20 in 1930. There are already 24 House retirements for the 2018 cycle.

      Dem NC-11

      • californianintexas September 8, 2017 at 12:35 am

        Thanks for another statistics idea: the average or median number of open seats in the Senate and House.

        34, Female, Libertarian, UT-02 (hometown CA-31),

    • rdelbov September 8, 2017 at 10:22 am

      Mackenzie IMO will have a better Lehigh county base and will be better funded.

      To say PA15 is a bit of a jumbled mess is an understatement. Holden IMO forced the GOP to draw nasty lines for this and several other seats. Here is my quick down and dirty analysis of this seat.

      The Lehigh and Northampton parts of the district are your classic swing areas. When these two whole counties made up 90% of the district PA15 was your classic swing seat that was always highly contested. Now the most D part of Northampton count is in PA17. The real R part (about 25%) of this district is in Berks/Dauphin/Lebanon counties. So 75% is classic swing and 25% strongly R rural and suburban voters. So IMO a strong Lehigh county R(like Mackenzie) should be able to hold this seat.

      • HS September 8, 2017 at 12:11 pm

        A lot depends on whom the Democrats choose to run. They don’t have a lot of obvious possibilities. I have heard good things about the one Dem state representative, Schlossberg. But even he starts off as the underdog with the current Republican lines.

        • rdelbov September 8, 2017 at 12:29 pm

          I heard a lot about how great Santarsiero would be in PA 8 in 2016. A very hard D primary IMO damaged him but either way he did get enough crossover votes to win. They need a top guy or gal from Lehigh county to run and I am not sure I see one. Its clear the GOP will win the outer counties so unless some one runs up a big score in Lehigh/Northampton the Ds will lose. 15 months is a long time in politics but PA15 is looking like a close but no cigar seat for the Ds.

  • Jon September 9, 2017 at 1:59 am

    So, would it be better for the winner of the R primary to be from the Western side of the district or the Eastern side for the purpose of redistricting in 2021?

    45, M, MO-02

    • Greyhound September 9, 2017 at 2:18 am

      Probably Eastern. The Lehigh valley is a pretty good COI, one that is about 1 CD worth of population, and which doesn’t have any other Republicans in it or particularly near it.

      R, 26, CA-18. Anti-Anti-Trump

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