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Dent Calls Would-Be Primary Challenger ‘a Phony’

Incumbent GOP congressman releases text messages from potential challenger asking for donations, questioning Trump

Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., called his potential Republican primary opponent "a phony." (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., called his potential Republican primary opponent "a phony." (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent hit a potential Republican primary challenger for being “a phony” on Thursday. 

Dent made the remark about state Rep. Justin Simmons, who has said he’s considering a primary challenge against the incumbent, according to the Morning Call of Allentown. 

Dent said that Simmons couldn’t muster the political stamina to run for lieutenant governor earlier this year, but now wants to go Washington.

“This is the second major office Justin said he was seeking this year,” Dent said. “He had previously said he was considering a run for lieutenant governor until the lack of support ended that possibility.”

Simmons called Dent a “political fraud” who is insufficiently supportive of President Donald Trump and refused to repeal the 2010 health care law. 

Dent is co-chairman of the moderate Tuesday Group and was one of 20 Republicans who voted against the American Health Care Act in May.

But in a statement, Dent released text messages showing Simmons asking for his support and indicating that he was not always a fan of Trump.

One text from Simmons in August of last year said, “Do you think there’s any chance the party can replace Trump at the top of the ticket?”

Another from February of last year showed Simmons asking Dent to host or sponsor a campaign event for Simmons’ primary.

But Simmons accused Dent of trying to secretly get Hillary Clinton elected against Trump.

“I asked for his endorsement before President Trump became our nominee and Charlie went off the rails against Trump,” Simmons told the newspaper. He also called Dent “beyond sleazy to take a portion of a conversation out of context to make it look like something other than it was, a question.”

Simmons said his text came after the release of the “Access Hollywood” video showing Trump talking about making unwanted sexual advances toward women. But the story does not check out because the tape was reported by the Washington Post in October, according to the newspaper. 

Simmons has yet to officially declare if he will challenge Dent.

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