Rep. Tim Holden and his wife, Gwen, attend the Northampton County Democratic Committees annual spring cocktail party in Bethlehem Township, Pa.
“I thought I was reading my political obituary in the newspaper for a week and a half,” Holden recalled. “I actually had considered not running, but I had enough money in the bank to do polling, and it showed me tied with George Gekas.”
A decade later, Holden is visibly worried about his re-election prospects. He stood anxiously on the side of a Northampton County Democrats fundraiser Thursday evening, sipping Miller Lite alongside his wife.
Later on, in his speech to the party faithful, Holden proclaimed he “stood shoulder-to-shoulder with” President Barack Obama. It’s a surreal declaration for a Blue Dog who voted against the president’s health care overhaul and is against abortion.
“They always said that, though, that I was a pawn of [Democratic leader] Nancy Pelosi, every campaign anyway,” Holden said in an interview. “I think our Founding Fathers had it right. You are a representative to Congress. If I had voted like Nancy, or [California Rep.] Henry Waxman, or the Manhattan delegation — who I’m friends with — we wouldn’t be talking right now. I would have been long gone.”
But maybe that’s why Democrats in this Holden stronghold weren’t enthusiastic about re-electing Holden to an 11th term. Democrats such as Vickie Lord, a longtime tour guide at Pottsville’s Yuengling Brewery, knows Holden as the “local boy” who always aired positive advertisements. But the negative ad wars have worn on her, and now she’s not sure for whom she’ll vote in next week’s primary.
“Sometimes people get old and stagnant in their ways,” she said. “I’m not opposed to new ideas, new faces, refreshing things every once in a while. Just because you’re there 20 years doesn’t mean you should be there 20 more. Maybe it’s time for a change.”