Dems primed to land top candidate vs. Dent

Democrats appear to have landed a major recruit to run against Rep Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), as Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan is reportedly preparing to challenge the incumbent in 2010.

The Allentown Morning Call's Josh Drobnyk cites unnamed sources in reporting that an announcement that Callahan will run is expected soon
Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan will run for Congress against Republican incumbent Charlie Dent in 2010, sources say, setting up a political battle the likes of which the Lehigh Valley hasn't seen in 17 years.

The two-term mayor has made his decision clear to Democratic Party leaders in Pennsylvania and Washington and is preparing to put a campaign team in place. An official announcement is expected soon.

The decision is a recruiting coup for national Democrats, who for years have been urging Callahan to challenge Dent. It pegs the 15th District contest as one of the national races to watch next year.

Lehigh County Democratic Committee Chairman Rick Daugherty didn't confirm the report, but he said Wednesday that Callahan "sounds interested" and probably will run for the seat.

Dent's seat has been high on the Democrats' list for some time due to its Democratic lean, but they have been unable to land good challengers in recent years and Dent has easily won reelection.

Callahan has resisted entreaties to run for the seat in the past, but now that he is entering the tail end of his first full term as mayor, he appears ready to take on Dent.

Dent's seat is one of just nine with a Democratic tendency that is still held by Republicans, according to the Cook Political Report. Democrats have already landed top candidates for similar seats held by Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) and outgoing Reps. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.), and they are sure to have a top contender to run against Rep. Joseph Cao (R-La.) too.

Those seats will allow Democrats to play plenty of offense in 2010, which is otherwise expected to be a defensive election.

The Allentown-based district went for President Obama by a 56-43 margin, but Dent won easily, 59-41, over Democrat Sam Bennett.