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GOP Rep. Charlie Dent will leave Congress within weeks

Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto | TNS
Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto | TNS
Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) at the "Congress of Tomorrow" Joint Republican Issues Conference, at the Loews Hotel in Philadelphia, Pa. on Jan. 25, 2017. Dent will leave office in May.

Rep. Charlie Dent, Pennsylvania, a frequent critic of President Donald Trump and a leader of the GOP’s moderate bloc in the House, said Tuesday he will resign from Congress within weeks. His decision could set up a costly special election if the Democratic governor of Pennsylvania orders one.

Dent had already announced his retirement from Congress in September, citing personal reasons for the decision while also lamenting the marginalization of the “governing wing” of the Republican Party as the GOP has moved further to the right.

He said in a statement released Tuesday morning that he will leave “in the coming weeks.” He did not offer a reason for his decision to depart now rather than finish his term.

“Actively engaging in the legislative and political process presents challenges, and in so doing, I believe I have had a positive impact on people’s lives and made a difference in Congress,” he said. “I am especially proud of the work I have done to give voice to the sensible center in our country that is often overlooked or ignored. It is my intention to continue to aggressively advocate for responsible governance and pragmatic solutions in the coming years.”

Dent, 57, is a co-chairman of the Tuesday Group, made up of several dozen centrist House Republicans, and he is chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on military construction, veterans affairs and related agencies.

His decision to resign in the coming weeks could set up a competitive and costly special election, depending on the wishes of Gov. Tom Wolf.

Pennsylvania election law requires the governor to issue a writ of election within 10 days of a vacancy, with an election to follow “not less than sixty days” later. Although the election could be held during “the next ensuing primary or municipal election,” Pennsylvania’s primary will be held May 15 — before any special election could be called. It is not clear whether Wolf would schedule an election so soon before the November midterm election will bring a full-term replacement for Dent.

A special election called before the Nov. 6 general election could force Republicans to spend millions to defend the seat. Democrat Conor Lamb won a March special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, which Trump had won by 20 points in 2016. Dent’s district is much more competitive for Democrats — it voted for Trump by eight points — and it is set to become even more competitive after a court-ordered redistricting. But a special election would fill the seat based on the existing lines.

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