Republican U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent will not seek re-election, the seven-term Lehigh Valley lawmaker announced in a statement Thursday evening.
The announcement comes days after conservative state Rep. Justin Simmons announced he was launching a primary challenge to Dent, who has become the outspoken voice of moderate Republicans within the U.S. House of Representatives.
The 57-year-old Allentown native has sailed to re-election repeatedly. But since last year’s election, he has not been shy about voicing his disagreements with the leader of his political party, President Donald Trump.
He criticized Trump for his travel ban on those from predominately Muslim countries, for firing James Comey as the FBI director was investigating the administration, for blaming the violence in Charlottesville, Va., on "both sides," and for failing to take a leading role in the efforts to replace and repeal Obamacare.
Those comments and his vote against the House GOP plan to repeal Obamacare have drawn frustration from conservatives. Several national groups organized a rally in his district last week, urging him to support Trump or to leave the party.
Dent had become increasingly vocal among House Republicans before last year’s election. The co-chairman of the Tuesday Group caucus of center-right Republicans came into the spotlight in 2013 when he stood up to party leaders ahead of the government shutdown, urging the passage of a bill without gimmicks.
Dent has long described himself as part of the "governing" wing of the party, part of the coalitions that formed under the last administration to pass legislation after more-conservative Republicans held out on must-pass bills.