Not that there aren’t other like-minded House Republicans. (No, really!) Dent is, in fact, co-chair of the moderate Tuesday Group, which, with 50-odd members, is comfortably larger than the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus. But unlike Freedom Caucus rowdies, Tuesday Groupies are a low-key, low-profile bunch. (Quick! Name two members besides Dent.) Even the coalition’s co-chair, Elise Stefanik, rarely ventures into the political fray.
Of late, Dent’s profile has been edging ever higher as he has challenged Trump’s immoderation on issues ranging from the budget to the anti-Muslim travel ban to the spiraling Russia probe. In July, Politico spotlighted the mild-mannered congressman’s newly in-your-face style and suggested he was poised to increase the Tuesday Group’s clout.
Then, early last month, Dent dropped the bombshell: He will not seek reelection next year. Who’s to say why? Maybe he got sick of being called a traitor. Maybe he didn’t have the heart—or stomach—to take on the state lawmaker who recently launched a primary challenge, slamming Dent as the party’s “number-one turncoat.” Maybe he’s tired of being called on every single time a journalist needs a spokesman for moderate Republicanism. (A person can spend only so much time in studio green rooms without losing his soul.) Or maybe, as Dent told me, after seven terms in the House (on top of several in the state legislature) he’s looking “to go out at the top of [his] game” and try something else for a while. “That doesn’t mean I can’t get back into it,” he stressed. “I’m young enough. I’m only 57!”
Whatever his motivations or plans, Dent is out the door next year. But what of the moderate colleagues he’s leaving behind? Who among the Tuesday Groupies has the nerve (and rhino’s hide) required to be the new champion of this beleaguered political breed?
“I don’t want to divulge too much, but we have been talking about succession plans,” Dent assured me. Quick as a jackrabbit, he ticked through over a half-dozen Tuesday Groupies ready to rise to the occasion: Elise Stefanik, Ryan Costello, Leonard Lance, Carlos Curbelo, John Katko, Brian Fitzpatrick, and Patrick Meehan.
And that’s just for starters.
“We have some really good people ready, willing, and able step up,” said Dent. “They will take on greater roles—not necessarily as chair or co-chair—but in leadership roles providing a stronger voice for the pragmatic, governing wing of the party.”
Dent expressed confidence that his colleagues will grow into their new duties. “I was co-chair with Mark Kirk before he left in 2010 for the Senate,” he recalled. “Back then, people tended to talk to Mark about matters more than me. Which was fine. He was a little more senior, a little more experienced. When he left, I became the face. And when I leave, people like Elise, Carlos, Ryan, Leonard—they’re more than ready to step up. They’re very smart, very quick. They’ll do a good job. I’m not at all concerned.”