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Inside Politics

Pennsylvania's Dent wins open seat

15th Congressional District of Pennsylvania


story.charlie.dent.jpg
Republican Charlie Dent will take the place of retiring Pat Toomey.
SPECIAL REPORT
House: PA 15 Updated: 5:32 p.m. ET
Dent 59%
Driscoll 39%
100% precincts reporting
Election Results Main Page

(CNN) -- Long-time Republican state representative Charlie Dent proved far better known and much more popular in running off to a big win over Democrat Joe Driscoll in the race for the open seat in Pennsylvania's 15th District.

The seat became available when Republican incumbent Pat Toomey chose not to seek re-election.

A poll done in late September by Muhlenberg College for the Allentown Morning Call showed that Dent had 53 percent of the vote, to 20 percent for Driscoll.

The final numbers will be similar; as of 1 p.m. Wednesday, Dent was winning with about 59 percent of the vote.

Dent easily separated himself from Driscoll using superior name recognition. Over his 13 years in the legislature he had represented almost 60 percent of the district, and had established a moderate voting record that served him well amongst the blue-collar constituents of Lehigh Valley. Among those supporting Dent was popular Governor Ed Rendell, who praised Dent for his work in creating economic development in the region.

The Philadelphia Inquirer said Dent's "record of public service demonstrates not only deep concern for constituents but also that he is best qualified for office."

Driscoll, on the other hand had trouble shaking the "outsider" label and establishing credibility in the community, having only recently moved there.

The Democratic challenger did have a several factors working for him. The district had a history of leaning Democratic, as 2000 Presidential nominee Al Gore carried it with 49 percent as did Rendell in 2002.

Then there were Driscoll's deep pockets. He had lent his campaign some $220,000 through September. Driscoll, a real estate developer and CFO of O'Neill Properties, Eastern Pennsylvania's largest redevelopment company, ran as a fiscal conservative, stressing plans to create growth in the Lehigh Valley. He also did his best to tie Dent in with the Bush administration.

Driscoll predicted that Dent would be a rubber stamp for the national GOP if elected. Driscoll further faulted Dent for voting against the Rendell administration's income-tax plan in 2003.

The final debate grew increasingly harsh, especially when it came to financing.

Dent stuck with his familiar theme of Driscoll being an outsider, pointing to his lack of funding from Valley voters.

"It's not where the dollars are coming from, it's who you owe for the money,'' said Driscoll, who then called Dent on some of his contributors. ''I'd be more concerned that you have so much PAC money.''

Driscoll tried to fight off that outsider label later in the debate, as when asked what he would do were he to lose the election, he replied, "I plan to stay here. That was my intention all along."


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