I ended up voting for Charlie.
Now, two years later, Dent faces yet another weak candidate, Siobhan Bennett. Congressman Dent allowed me to pepper him with question after question, even permitting me to record his answers. Over the next week, I'll be posting his responses verbatim.
In the first installment, Dent explains how he and Bennett are different. Let's go right to the interview.
LV Ramblings: Ms. Bennett's campaign talks a lot about needing change and facing big changes in the future. Bennett likes to call you a "career politician" [Charlie starts laughing] while she is a "change agent who's been doin' it for years here in the 15th." She even claims she goes to church more often than you. [Charlie suddenly gets very erect]. Your detractors call you an "empty suit." Do you think Bennett is really a "change agent"?
Congressman Dent: "No. Siobhan Bennett is a career candidate. People are learning about her extraordinary hypocrisy. She sends me a 'clean campaign' pledge after she lays into me with personal, unfounded attacks. Here she is, saying that she goes to church more often than I do. These are personal comments she's making . . ."
LV Ramblings: She said that on a local radio program . . .
Congressman Dent: "She is making personal comments about me. She has a lot of nerve, frankly, to do that, but I'm not at all surprised.
"With respect to the 'change agent,' the only change Siobhan will bring to anyone will be the change left in their pockets after she's done taxing you and trying to regulate your life and to litigate this nation into what she believes will be a prosperous future.
"That said, let's talk about people who can get things done. I'm not trying to blow my own horn, but I feel like I have to state this . . ."
LV Ramblings: This will actually answer the next question posed by my readers - How has your time in office qualified you to represent us again? How have you made yourself an effective and experienced Congressman, one who can make a difference for his constituents?
Congressman Dent: "Yes, I think one question leads into the next. People in Washington know they can work with me on both sides of the aisle. Pete Peterson of the Peterson Foundation and Dave Walker, the former Comptroller General? I set up a meeting between those guys, our group, the Tuesday group, a group of more centered Republicans, and the Blue Dog Democrats. We talked about entitlement reform.
"Mr. Peterson was quite clear. He said if anything is going to happen, we're going to need this group. This is one of the biggest and most difficult issues this nation is ever going to face - the nation's entitlement system - and Peterson said that's why we came to you.
"We had a conversation between Republicans and Democrats, a civil exchange, and this is how we start bringing people together. I like to bring Republicans and Democrats together whenever possible.
"In contrast, Siobhan Bennett is nothing but an extreme partisan. I've never seen her try to reach out to anybody on the other side of the aisle. She doesn't do that. That's not her thing. She has always identified herself with the more extreme elements of this left wing movement, whether it's MoveOn.org, ACT [Americans Coming Together] or George Soros or whatever it's called now. They change the name. Every time they get in trouble, they change the name. That's where she's been.
"I can point to areas where I've worked across the aisle. In stem cell research, I worked with [Democrat] Diane DeGette of Colorado. We partnered a group to put together a coalition both when I was in the majority and when I was in the minority. We did this twice, never with enough votes to override the President, but we tried. We worked collaboratively. They know they can talk to me.
"I voted to override the President on SCHIP. I sat in on meetings with [Democrat] Rahm Emanuel, talking about how to get the votes needed to enact a responsible SCHIP program. I sat in serious policy discussions and people feel they can talk to me.
"On the Homeland Security Committee, I work closely with Democratic subcommittee chair Henry Cuellar of Texas. He's been to my district; I've been to his. I've introduced legislation; we've moved my legislation through the House, and I'm from the Minority. I've still been able to move legislation.
"You do that by being able to work with people . . . "
LV Ramblings: Plus you've brought home quite a bit of money . . .
Congressman Dent: "Yes, another thing, too. We're going to be getting into Iraq and other issues, but I was one of the first members of Congress to call for a Status of Forces Agreement, along with [Democratic] Congressman Steve Israel of New York. In fact, it was the first time that any members of Congress went to the House floor together to talk about Iraq in a civil tone . . . to talk about areas where we agree. We talked about this for over an hour. Some of the media picked up on this because they said they never saw this before. They see these rancorous special orders at night. Frankly, Steve Israel and I did it because we felt that C-Span was no longer safe for children. We decided we'd have a civil conversation.
"Now, you're seeing a status of forces agreement that we were talking about a long time ago to put some pressure on the Bush administration to move in that direction.
"There are issues like that that we work together on all the time.
"I also work all the time with local officials, from Mayor Fluck in Hellertown to John Callahan in Bethlehem. He gave me a lot of credit when we helped get some money for the 412 improvements, $15 million that was the city's top priority and a top regional priority. He made some very kind statements about me that really meant a lot to me. 'Whoever thinks Charlie Dent can't get the job done, hasn't met Charlie Dent.' Something to that effect. I should apologize to the mayor now. He doesn't like it when I bring that up.
"I've worked with the Mayor of Allentown, too, and he thanks me publicly for working with them to help get some funding back to the police department and some of the city's other infrastrtucture.
"I work together with others all the time in larger and smaller communities. I've worked with John Stoffa for a Child Advocacy Center, which he helped establish in Lehigh County when he was the Human Services Director. Now he's trying to establish one here in Northampton and it will happen, too. We helped provide some of the funding.
"We don't ask questions of party. We have a job to do and my job is to work with people. I think I've done that, both in Washington and back here.
"That's quite a bit of the difference between me and Siobhan."