Write-in candidate seeks seat
The Press asked the candidates what the most pressing issue was facing residents of the 15th Congressional District and why he should be elected or re-elected to office.
Incumbent Republican Charlie Dent
Dent has served as U.S. Congressman in the 15th District since 2005. He was state senator in the 16th Senatorial District from 1999-2005 and state representative for the 132nd Legislative District from 1991-98.
Dent, who spoke with The Press Oct. 17, said the most pressing issue facing residents in the country is jobs.
"We need a stronger economy and job creation," Dent said. "We need to create more family sustaining jobs."
Dent also discussed his vote for the 2014 Farm Bill and its effect on "those in need."
"The Farm Bill increased funding to the Emergency Food Assistance Program," Dent said. "Spending for food stamps more than doubled since [President Barack] Obama took office. In 2008, it was $35 billion. Now it is $70 billion. The Farm Bill cut $9 billion from food stamps over a 10-year period by a bipartisan vote.
Dent said his priority is growing the economy.
"One way is to reinstate 40 hours as a full-time work week," Dent said. "Obama's health care law changed full time to 30 hours or more."
The Congressman discussed jobs being sent overseas.
He also mentioned the Chinese manufacturer of plastic cutlery which recently moved into Upper Macungie Township.
"American manufacturing is in a very good position," Dent said. "There are low energy costs with natural gas. Almost every industrial operation uses natural gas for its operations. There is a great deal of potential for additional manufacturing in the U.S."
"We need to expand markets for American products and we need to maintain use of natural gas."
Dent also said to help businesses, we need to broaden the tax base, lower tax rates and simplify the tax code.
In addition to the Chinese firm, Dent mentioned German-based Wacker Chemicals in Upper Macungie.
"A lot of foreign investment is coming to this country," Dent said.
Dent explained his vote for TARP, the Troubled Asset Relief Program, of 2008.
"I voted to stabilize the financial sector when it was imploding," Dent said. "It was a loan to banks that has been repaid and the government actually made money."
Dent added that over the last two years he has spent a lot of time seeking bipartisan solutions to various problems, including the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.
Dennis J. Atiyeh
Farmer, developer and owner of Rising Son Farms Inc., Dennis Atiyeh of North Whitehall has waged a write-in campaign challenging Congressman Charlie Dent for his seat in the 15th Congressional District.
Atiyeh spoke with The Press Oct. 16.
He said the main thrust of his campaign is to have attorneys pay for their use of the courts.
"In a time when everyone is paying so many taxes, the tax burden has fallen on the citizens," Atiyeh said. "Attorneys, who go to court, benefit without paying any costs. The average citizen pays a fuel tax, I believe attorneys should have to pay to use the courts."
Atiyeh also said jurors should be paid more for their services.
"If attorneys are making billions, is it fair for taxpayers to pay for it and for jurors to be there for free?"
Atiyeh said his campaign slogan is: "Every vote is a victory."
"Every single person who writes me in sends a message to the powers that be in Washington, D.C., that the tax burden has to be lower."
The candidate said as a farmer, he helps those in need by donating some of his vegetables and fruit to several food banks, including City Limits Assembly of God and Everlasting Life Ministries, both in Allentown.
He said farmers in Northampton, Berks and Lehigh counties also donate food with him.
"I bring everything from vegetables and potatoes to apples," Atiyeh said. "The real reason I decided to run against Dent is his cuts to the food bank in the Farm Bill. Dent bailed out the banks and cut aid to food banks."
Atiyeh also spoke about jobs.
North American Free Trade Agreement is a miserable failure by both the Democrats and the Republicans," Atiyeh said. "We have got to bring manufacturing back to America.
"If we cut off China, we bring back millions of jobs to America."
Atiyeh said America needs more diversification.
"People would be happy to make clothing and durable goods," Atiyeh said. "People feel happy going to work."
Atiyeh said new manufacturing jobs could be fueled by natural gas.
"We have got to change the way this country is run," Atiyeh said. "People are being overtaxed. I would love to see a tax revolution start right here in the Lehigh Valley. Hopefully, I am planting that seed."
Atiyeh said he wants votes from the "peoples' hearts."
"I want them to say 'I like these ideas. I am going to write him in.'"