WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent (R., Pa.) will leave office in May, he announced Tuesday morning, hastening his planned departure from Congress.
Dent, regularly sought out by national media outlets as one of Congress' leading centrist voices and a frequent critic of President Trump, had already said he was not seeking reelection this year. A busy primary effort was underway to replace him in his Allentown-based district. But his departure next month will remove his voice from the daily fray even sooner and trigger another special election, potentially under confusing circumstances.
Dent said he was pursuing multiple job possibilities in the private sector, and did not rule out moving into a role on television or lobbying, after a one-year "cooling-off" period for former members of Congress.
"Nothing is final yet, I'm still working on it. But it just seemed like the right time for personal reasons, and I hope to be able to deal with my future when I'm out of Congress," Dent said.
He plans to leave between May 7 and Memorial Day, he said.
By law, Gov. Wolf must decide within 10 days of Dent's departure when to hold a special election. It would have to be at least 60 days after Dent leaves. That means any vote to fill the seat would happen in July at the earliest, well after Pennsylvania's May primary elections.
At that point, there would be less than six months left in Dent's term, with Congress planning to be in recess for much of that time. One option to spare the state the expense of another vote would be to hold the special election concurrently with November's general election. That's what happened in Philadelphia after Rep. Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.) was convicted on corruption charges in June 2016.
Adding to the potential confusion, a special election would likely be held using the current district lines, while November's race will be under new congressional boundaries imposed by the state Supreme Court.
Wolf will make a decision when he receives a formal resignation, his office said.
Dent said he didn't think much would happen in Congress during a vacancy, with Washington already focused on the fall elections. In the meantime, Dent plans to keep his seat as the chairman of an appropriations subcommittee, allowing him to oversee billions in spending while seeking a private sector job.
"I've been exploring opportunities and there's no secret to that," he said. "Nothing is finalized."