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Pennsylvania - 15th District

Incumbent -- Charlie Dent (R) ; Running for re-election

Leans Republican
Race Ratings Key
 

Updated Oct. 14, 2010

In a year of disappointments for Democrats, this could be their worst.

Democrats thought they scored a huge victory after persuading Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan (D) to challenge Dent. It was among their best, and few, realistic pickup opportunities.

Further, the race will include a third-party candidate Jake Towne, a tea party favorite who was expected to siphon off some of Dent's supporters.

But polling released in late September suggest that Dent leads Callahan by double digits.

Look for Callahan, who is well-funded and well-respected as a pro-business Democrat, to close the gap down the stretch. But Dent's profile as a centrist and his overall popularity may be too much in a year that isn't expected to offer many advantages for downballot Democrats.

 

District Information

District Profile from Politics in America

Centered in the Lehigh Valley about 60 miles north of Philadelphia and abutting the Delaware River, the 15th takes in Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton -- historically known as steel and coal industry strongholds. The region once suffered from the Rust Belt blues that singer Billy Joel immortalized in his 1982 song "Allentown."

The area's economy has diversified over the past several decades: Health care employers and warehouse and distribution industries provide jobs, and small businesses now dot a landscape where factories and small farms once were mainstays. And despite the 2009 relocation of the corporate headquarters and some assembly jobs for Mack Trucks, the company has opened a customer call center and increased hiring at a local manufacturing plant.

Local leaders hope the transformation of the former Bethlehem Steel factory -- once the Leigh Valley's largest employer and one of the world's largest steel manufacturers -- into the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem gaming, hotel, restaurant and retail venue will churn out revenue. Olympus America has its headquarters here, and other key employers include the Lehigh Valley Hospital complex, electric utility PPL, technology company LSI Corp, and Emmaus-based Rodale Press.

Many of the district's towns, some with well-established Pennsylvania Dutch heritages, date to colonial times. But the 250-year-old German influence has been diluted by a century of immigration and steady migration from New Jersey and New York. White-collar commuters have brought higher incomes to the area, and there has been an influx of lower-income residents as well. Much of the growth in the Lehigh Valley has been in the Hispanic population. Blue-collar, ethnic workers provide a dwindling yet still-powerful base for Democrats, but an increasing white-collar core and a socially conservative streak among blue-collar voters have helped the GOP win House races here.

Major Industry

Technology, health care, warehousing, manufacturing

Cities

Allentown, 118,032; Bethlehem, 74,982; Easton, 26,800

Notable

The Valley Preferred Cycling Center, a premier site for track cycling, has hosted Olympic trial, Junior World Championship and World Cup races.

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