Rep. Charlie Dent announced Thursday night that he would not be seeking re-election. The Pennsylvania Republican is one of the leading moderates in the GOP conference.
“I’ve always said down the street there’s been a fair amount of instability, uncertainty and dysfunction. I’ve always come to accept a certain amount of dysfunction in government,” Dent said Thursday night. “But, I guess they’ve taken it to a new level. They’ve taken the fun out of dysfunction.”
Dent said that he had been contemplating retirement since the Oct. 2013 government shutdown, and he decided mid-summer that he would not run for an eighth term.
“Frankly, I never planned on serving, voters permitting, more than 5 or 6 terms in the US Congress,” Dent said. “I’m now serving my seventh term.”
“I promise to continue my role, both inside and soon outside of government, of giving voice to the sensible center and working to solve problems for the American people through smart policy — the product of negotiation, cooperation and inevitably, compromise,” Dent later added.
Democrats touted Dent’s retirement as opening up a competitive seat. But President Donald Trump won Dent’s district by 8 points in November, according to calculations by Daily Kos Elections.
“Congressman Dent considers himself a leader of the Republican governing wing, and his retirement is a clear sign that he has lost all hope of doing that job under Speaker Ryan and President Trump,” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Evan Lukaske. He said Democrats were confident they would field a strong candidate.
Dent has been critical of the president and is a leader of the Tuesday Group, a cohort of moderate Republicans. His centrist stances prompted conservative state Rep. Justin Simmons to officially launch a primary challenge this week. Though now Simmons might have to change his social media handles and website, which named Dent (his website is simmonsnotdent.com).
“We challenged the establishment and won in 2010. We just did it again!! Now we must defeat his hand picked choice,” Simmons said in a tweet Thursday night, referencing his successful state House bid.
Two GOP sources said State Rep. Ryan Mackenzie would likely run for Dent’s seat, which includes former steel towns of Bethlehem and Allentown. The operative noted that Mackenzie, who is serving his fourth term in the state House, has grass-roots support in the district.
“All things being equal a Republican should win, but this will be a challenging midterm election for our party just for historical reasons,” Dent said. “We are the party of the president and we have total control of government. So I suspect that 2018 could be analogous to 1994 or 2006 or 2010. I think it could be one of those types of years.”
Dent was first elected to the House in 2004 after serving in the state legislature. He serves on the powerful Appropriations Committee and chairs the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs Subcommittee.
Dent is the second House Republican to announce his retirement in as many days. On Wednesday Washington Rep. Dave Reichert announced he would not run again, opening up a prime takeover opportunity for Democrats.
Dent is the 7th incumbent to not seek re-election, and there will likely be more retirements to come. On average, 22 House members retire each election cycle and do not seek another office.
Jennifer Shutt contributed to this report.