Pennsylvania’s 15th District is used to close elections, and the GOP’s Charlie Dent has managed to win re-election three times by anywhere from 20 to 11 percent margins. This year, he faces Democrat John Callahan in a race that generally doesn’t favor Democrats; however, voters are also expressing anger with incumbents, meaning that this is a race that might be a possible, though not tremendously likely, pick-up.
Candidates for Pennsylvania’s15th Congressional District (two-year term)
(This district includes parts of or all of Northampton, Lehigh, Berks and Montgomery counties and the cities of Allentown and Bethlehem. See a boundary map here.)
Candidate: Charlie Dent
Political experience: Dent has represented the 15th District since 2005. He was previously a member of the Pennsylvania state house (1991-98) and of the Pennsylvania state senate (1999-2004).
Professional experience: Before going into public service, Dent was a college fundraiser, an electronics salesman, a hotel clerk and a congressional aide.
Key issues: Dent feels the national debt is a significant problem, according to his website, and is harmed by the extended reach of government. He’s opposed cap and trade, the stimulus bill, the Farm Bill, Cash for Clunkers, cap and trade, the health care bill and most other Democratic House initiatives. He’d like to see a constitutional amendment to force balanced budgets and wants he TARP funds that have been repaid to be used to offset the deficit.
A big component of his platform is homeland security and national defense. Dent notes he helped push through a bill that gives the Transportation Security Administration additional resources in protecting the homeland from terrorist attacks. He’s for better intelligence gathering, supporting the Patriot Act and terrorist surveillance programs.
Endorsements: Dent is endorsed by former Rep. Pat Toomey and state senators Pat Browne and Bob Mensch.
Chances of maintaining his seat: In terms of money, the race is still even. Dent has $1,043,338 to Callahan’s $988,537, as detailed by OpenSecrets.org. According to an NPR poll taken in July, Republican incumbents were likely to be re-elected 49 percent of the time, a significantly better showing than the Democrats’ 34 percent. The race leans in his favor but by a slim margin.
Candidate: John B. Callahan
Political experience: Callahan was elected to the Bethlehem City Council in 1998 and became mayor in 2003. He is the president of the Pennsylvania League of Cities and Municipalities.
Professional experience: Callahan was a senior institutional health care consultant for Pfizer Inc.
Key issues: Callahan considers the U.S.-Israel relationship to be an important policy area, noting that he would support collaborating on high-tech innovations, sharing information and dealing with common threats. He’d like to see the United States help foster a better peace process, one that is comprehensive and lasting. He notes that Iran poses a threat to regional stability and is in favor of stronger measures to counter the threat, if necessary.
He touts his record of keeping Bethlehem, Pa., safe and would suggests his experience as mayor in this arena would translate well to Congress.
Endorsements: Callahan has a long list of endorsements, including the United Steelworkers, United Auto Workers, AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and United Food and Commercial Workers.
Chances of unseating Charlie Dent: Anti-incumbent sentiment is strong this election season, but the Lehigh Valley leans Republican in year that’s not favoring Democrats. Callahan has the advantage of not being directly tied to any unpopular bills already passed and could be seen as an option given Congress is also unpopular overall. But the odds still favor Dent’s re-election.
Key Differences between John B. Callahan and Charlie Dent
Jobs: Callahan dedicates a significant portion of his platform to job creation, noting a five-point plan to achieve his goals. These include eliminating tax loopholes for outsourcing firms, tax credits to small businesses to hire new employees, cut overall spending and reduce the national debt, make college and job training more affordable and available and cut red tape in bureaucracy. Dent stands against harmful, job-killing legislation and backs improved infrastructure, reformed tax policies and offshore drilling and clean coal technologies to create more energy jobs.
Health care: Dent opposed the health care reform passed and signed by President Obama, and he would like to see more options for affordable coverage — not less, as he sees it. He thinks implementing health information technology will help lower costs and improve efficiency; he says controlling Medicare and Medicaid fraud and waste is an essential component to reform. On his side of the table, Callahan thinks his record as mayor demonstrates how he’d approach health care reform, by keeping long term costs down. He suggests he helped provide free flu shots and low-cost and free clinics and care throughout the city.
Pennsylvania‘s 15th U.S. Congressional District
Location: The Pennsylvania 15th District includes the Lehigh, Indian and Upper Perkiomen Valleys. It borders New Jersey in eastern Pennsylvania.
2008 results: Republican Charlie Dent was re-elected 58.6 percent to Democrat Sam Bennett’s 41.4 percent.
Demographics: According to the U.S. Census, 80.9 percent of the district is white, 11.3 percent Hispanic, 3.9 percent black and 2.3 percent Asian.
The Cook Partisan Index gives the Pennsylvania 15th District a rating of D+2, awarding a slight edge to Democratic voters in this district.