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Dent’s redrawn 15th District lies in the sweet spot of Pennsylvania (it now also includes Hershey), at the crossroads between the pricey media markets in Philadelphia and New York. This is not Billy Joel’s Allentown: The Lehigh Valley is the fastest growing region in Pennsylvania, providing a residential tax shelter for commuters to New Jersey and Manhattan.
Dent’s district has also proved to be a sweet spot for negotiating within his caucus. The 15th District borders or comes close to the districts of GOP Reps. Lou Barletta, Michael G. Fitzpatrick, Patrick Meehan and Jim Gerlach, and it’s just across the state line from New Jersey Reps. Jon Runyan and Leonard Lance. These Republicans represent a chunk of more moderate members in the caucus who have said they are open to supporting a clean continuing resolution to re-open the government.
“At some point, cooler heads will prevail and we will end up funding the governing,” Dent said. “There must be a bipartisan coalition to enact must-pass legislation. The sooner we all come to that realization, the better.”
Dent, 53, has been a vocal moderate on social issues for a few years. He was one of 15 House Republicans who voted to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” in 2010. This year, he co-sponsored the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which includes protections for gay, lesbian and transgender workers.
In June, he disparaged his GOP colleagues for trying to pass a stringent anti-abortion bill, telling CQ Roll Call that “the stupidity is simply staggering.”
The former university fundraiser voted with Republicans 83 percent of the time last year, according to CQ Voting Studies, about average for his annual party unity score throughout his career.
Democrats accuse Dent of mixing moderate rhetoric with conservative votes. One local Democrat from his district pointed to Dent’s votes with the GOP to delay Obamacare implementation last week as proof.
“If you look at his votes, they’re not all that different from the tea party,” the Allentown Democrat said, adding, “He seems to get away with it pretty well.”