Rating Change: Dent Retirement Puts Seat in Play

Pennsylvania Republican says seventh term will be his last

Just days ago, it looked like Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Charlie Dent was preparing to fight it out for an eighth term. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent capped a tumultuous week for Republicans on the Hill by announcing he would not seek re-election in 2018, leaving his 15th District open and vulnerable to a Democratic takeover.

Dent’s decision is the biggest news to come out of Allentown since earlier this summer when Philadelphia Phillies rookie slugger Rhys Hoskins was called up to the major leagues and hit home runs at a faster initial pace than any player in history, after batting 29 home runs with 91 RBIs for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.

Just a few days ago, Dent was publishing screenshots of old text messages to discredit a potential Republican primary challenger (state Rep. Justin Simmons) and it looked like the congressman was preparing for a fight. Instead he announced he wouldn’t seek an eighth term next year. 

Dent completes a trio of Democratic dream retirements this cycle. Districts represented by Florida’s Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Washington’s Dave Reichert went from Solid Republican to the Democratic column, considering Hillary Clinton won both of their districts. 

Dent’s 15th District isn’t as Democratic — Donald Trump carried it 52 percent to 44 percent in 2016 and Mitt Romney did so by 3 points in 2012 — but sources in the Keystone State admit it could be a difficult hold depending on the nominees and national political climate. The congressman’s reputation as a moderate made the announcement more dramatic than the district’s partisan lean would indicate.

We’re changing the Inside Elections rating of the race in Pennsylvania’s 15th District from Solid Republican to Leans Republican.

The open seats so far will be challenging for the GOP next year, not just because some strong incumbents will be absent from the ballot, but also because the party will likely need to advertise in the expensive Miami, Seattle, and Philadelphia media markets to hold them. 

Back-to-back announcements from Reichert and Dent sent shockwaves through the political world, but more retirements are likely to come. Over the last 40 years, 22 members, on average, have announced their retirement from the House without seeking another office. Dent is just the seventh member to make that decision this cycle.

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