Jackson Eaton is Officially In For #pa15

Jackson Eaton is officially in the race for the 15th District, and for an ex-Republican he’s definitely not sounding like a Blue Dog. Eaton explicitly calls out Dent and the House Republicans for blocking action on jobs and climate change. Here’s Nicole Radzievich:

Jackson Eaton, who just switched his registration to Democrat, on Thursday officially announced his run against former fellow Republican Charlie Dent, painting him as part of a “do-nothing Congress” and a GOP majority playing “chicken” with Democrats on issues such as the national debt and jobs.
Standing in front of his alma mater, William Allen High School, Eaton pointed out the government almost shut down twice this year. The national government, he noted, came close to defaulting on payments toward its $14 trillion debt, a move which led to a downgrade of its bond rating, because Congress did not act.

He labeled Dent, R-15th District, a “loyal foot soldier” to Republican leaders.

“This week, I changed my registration from Republican to Democrat,” Eaton said. “But in fact the Republican party left me some time ago. It has become beholden to fantasies like the idea that tax cuts pay for themselves that the unemployed have only themselves to blame and that climate change is a hoax.

“It is also the party of Congressman Dent,” said Eaton, 34, of Allentown.

This line of attack is just devastating coming from someone who was recently a registered Republican and Dent volunteer just a few years ago. Charlie Dent even recommended him for a job as recently as 2009, so it appears Dent and Eaton are familiar.

Now Eaton is calling him out for following his party to the far right, and ignoring the country’s problems. For a recent Democratic convert to be making this charge moves the center of this race substantially to the left.

Democrats should be skeptical about why Eaton was a registered Republican for so long despite always voting for Democrats, but remember that he did vote for Democrats in the last 3 elections. He’s 34, which means the only Republican Presidential candidate he may have ever voted for was Bob Dole. Can’t imagine an 18 year old voting for Dole, but…

Don’t listen to the concern-trolling from Shawn Millan. Millan is trying to raise questions about Eaton’s Democratic bona fides by playing up his Republican past, because he knows Eaton is a going to have a strong message in the general election, and he would rather run against Rick Daugherty. I don’t have a strong opinion about who the more electable Democrat is yet, but the Dent campaign would probably run a generic anti-tax campaign against Rick. The race against Eaton would be less predictable for them.

What are people thinking so far? Do you think Eaton sounds like a Democrat?


  1. Thank you for raising some interesting points of discussion.
    First, to answer your question, yes he sounds like a Democrat. But I wish the Morning Call reporter had answered some other questions I have about Mr. Eaton.
    Is he an attorney? The MC story says he “has worked” as an attorney. Where is he licensed as a lawyer? Not in PA. I looked it up.
    When he changed his voter registration to D, I assume he registered as a LV resident. Where had he been registered prior? Has he voted in LV elections? If so, when was the last time? It would be soothing to learn he voted via absentee ballot during his time away.
    The MC story says he is an Allentown resident. For how long? The article lists a lot of work he has done in other places. Will he face accusations of being a carpetbagger? Does he have the knowledge of LV issues and a sense for the flavor of this community? Holding a news conference yesterday in front his old high school, William Allen, may be an earnest symbolic gesture, or a cynical attempt to re-establish local roots.
    Just where does he work? The story is vague. Where’s his source of income?
    I am also concerned that his family is employed with/connected to an Allentown law firm that has been quite active recently in raising money and donating money for local GOP candidates. Would it be paranoid to suggest Mr. Easton is really a GOP strawman, designed to block any real credible Democratic candidate from entering the primary?
    I could not care less that he’s been a GOP supporter. More people should look beyond the party label and focus on the real issues. But I need to know more about Mr. Eaton.

  2. Jon Geeting says:

    He graduated from NYU law school, and worked in DC for Jay Rockefeller, so I’d guess he’s licensed in DC. Dent’s not going to be able to call him a carpetbagger though. He’s worked on *Dent’s campaigns* in the LV.

    Also, I can’t think of any issue *less* important than carpetbagging when there’s 9% unemployment. Dent isn’t going to be able to get away with having an election about folksy authenticity issues this time. He’ll look out of touch.

  3. Here’s the thing for me, Jon. You’re shading the truth here. You say Dent recommended Eaton for a job in 2009. The story says Eaton approached Dent for a recommendation in 2009. That’s a big issue for me. If this guy has been developing a real hate for Dent’s voting record — it should have started well before 2009. But, since Eaton’s father is tied into the Republican power structure locally, he was willing to use those connections to approach Dent for career help. That stinks of opportunism.

    This candidacy has the smell of Walter Garvin’s anti-Rick Daugherty machinations all over it. If Garvin thinks Democrats are going to be looking to Eaton as the man on the white horse, he’d better rethink.

    Both candidates better answer the questions you submit to them — and not with political election-speak.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply anything by wording it that way. Yes, that’s a concern for me too. It was clear by 2009 that House Republicans were going to oppose anything that would improve the economy on Obama’s watch. But look back at the article:

      “In 2009, he wants to get Charlie’s endorsement and he’s ready to investigate the Obama administration,” Millan observed. “Flash forward now, and he’s a registered Democrat ready to run against the chairman of the Lehigh County Democratic Party in the primary.”

      Eaton said he had approached Dent, for whom he once volunteered, about the position on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. But Eaton pointed out he applied to several committees. He said Dent made it clear during their conversation that it was a very political position — that he would be investigating the president — and that made him uncomfortable.

      Dent passed along his resume, but Eaton never heard anything.

      He asked Dent for a job recommendation to a committee that was controlled by Democrats. The article doesn’t say if he was applying to work for a Democrat or Republican member of the committee. Dent would have the most clout with Republican committee members so it would make sense if it was for a Republican member. But we don’t know that yet. Maybe Dent has personal friendships with Democrats. Remember, Eaton also worked for Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat.

      I’d like to know more about this, but I’m withholding judgment on the candidates still, and I suggest others do the same. It is nice to have choices. I will submit some questions to them, and you should too.

      A primary is a good thing. The eventual nominee will be a stronger candidate for having run in a primary. Neither candidate has done this before, and I don’t think you want the eventual nominee to go up against an entrenched incumbent cold.

  4. Will the Democrats not learn their lesson in running weak candidates. Look what happened with Scott Brown resulting in filibuster ability. From what you describe of Eaton he is not a strong candidate. The people of this region arent going to vote against the hometown boy Charlie Dent for a guy who doesnt even live or work here. Voluntering for Dent will be a double edge sword for him as well. it may bring some moderates over but Dent can always excuse Eaton of flip flopping. Im no fan of Dent right now but i do ask that the Dems bring forth the most electable candidate. You have to actually win a seat to change anything.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      I really don’t think there’s any upside at all for Dent in the “former volunteer” story. Dent gets more right-wing every year, and Eaton will be able to point to his DW-NOMINATE score to show that. Dent changed, not Eaton. It’s also not obvious to me that Rick Daugherty is the stronger candidate.

  5. Neither one are the stronger candidate. Charlie Dent is unexplainably popular in this region. Even thou his endorsements didnt pan out in Behtlehem in 2012 with a presidental race on the ballot turn out will be alot higher and you will have to contend with conservative areas of the district such as Bucks county which Dent has locked. Eatons issue is getting the centerist repubs and the conservative democrats to vote for him over Dent and Dent draws large amount of votes from the other side. How will Eaton explain representing a district he no longer lives or works in ? I got to be honest im personally hoping for Dents removal from congress and im not getting the feeling that Eaton is the guy who can pull that off. I also have to question just how many favors does Eaton owe ole Charlie ?

  6. “Why do you say Eaton doesn’t live or work in the district? All the news stories say he works in Allentown.”

    No, they don’t Jon. They say he lives in Allentown. And they don’t say for how long.
    He’s not a PA attorney. And acording to the DC Bar, there is no one named Jackson Eaton on its rolls. So where does he work?
    Mr. Eaton has a Facebook page for his candidacy that contains very little information, in fact only 3 posts. Not even a resume?
    “Dent’s not going to be able to call him a carpetbagger though. He’s worked on *Dent’s campaigns* in the LV.” That was like 8 years ago, Jon.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      Ok, so he lives in Allentown then. His campaign bio says he worked for “a large Washington D.C. law firm” and it looks like most of his work experience has been in DC.

      I dunno, I just don’t care about this kind of stuff at all. This race is going to be about the issues, dammit.

  7. You should care about this stuff, Jon, if you ever want to oust Dent.
    From “The National Journal”, profile of Dent (July 2011):
    When Republican Rep. Pat Toomey announced that he would run against Sen. Arlen Specter in the 2004 Republican primary, Dent was the front-runner to succeed him. Dent’s lifelong residence in the Lehigh Valley was in sharp contrast to the background of the Democratic nominee, businessman Joe Driscoll. Driscoll grew up in Massachusetts, where he went sailing with the Kennedys and made enough money to spend $2 million on this race. But he lived for years in posh Lower Merion Township in Montgomery County, just outside Philadelphia.
    Dent framed the campaign as a contest between a native son and a carpetbagging outsider who thought of the Lehigh Valley as “a speed bump on his way to Congress.” Driscoll sought to deflect the residency issue with aggressive criticism of the Bush administration, asserting that a vote for Dent was an endorsement of President George W. Bush’s by-then unpopular policies. Dent’s moderate record, which included support for abortion rights, made it difficult to tie him to Bush, and he insisted he would be an independent voice in Washington. Dent won 59%-39%. A few weeks after the election, Driscoll’s real estate agent said that he put his townhouse here up for sale and moved back to Lower Merion Township.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      I think that’s a much different situation. For starters, the 2004 election did not feature 9% unemployment. It was mostly about gay marriage and the Iraq War, and it was a weak cycle for Democrats. Dent isn’t going to be able to get away with that this time. The other difference is that Eaton was in the Army and then in law school and then doing public service legal work like the BP spill probe. I’m sure Dent’s still going to use it because there isn’t much else for him to work with, but I just don’t think it’s going to work.

  8. Jon i appreciate your romantic notions toward the issues but races are very seldom won on the issues. You run a political race to beat the other candidate and from what i have read about Eaton or what little there is about him as the case is here Dent has plenty of ammunition to beat him enough so that a question arises in my head if Eaton isnt just a straw man put in front of Dent for Dent to get re elected. You need a progressive candidate who is going to tie Dent to the very unpopular tea party congress and the voters of this region will not vote against the hometown boy especially by voting for a man who once helped put Dent there. The reason Callahan gave Dent the hardest win of his political career even with a 3rd party candidate in the race is cause John is another hometown boy. People here vote for the guy whose kids play little league and go to school or they see in church on sunday mornings. Its just my oppinion but i beleive your going to need alot stronger candidate than Eaton to oust Dent from congress.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      Just to clarify, I’m not denying that the Hometown Boy factor matters to some people at the margins. I’m just saying that I personally do not care about that stuff at all, I don’t intend to spend any time writing about it, and I’m going to keep the focus on the issues that actually matter. Insofar as the Geeting blog is a media outlet, and gets a say in what the race is about, I’m going to use my tiny corner of influence to keep this thing on track and focused on who’s got the better ideas on the all-important jobs issue. I hope that other journalists won’t let Dent get away with distracting everyone like he usually does.

  9. If Eaton is the candidate i will see where he stands on the issues and cast my vote i was just really hoping for a stronger democrat to run against Dent especially right now when hes ripe for the picking.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      I hope more candidates will get in too, but I don’t think it looks good. Apparently the DCCC has been calling up Sal Panto a lot, but there’s no way he’s getting in. Ditto for Pawlowski. David Haines has been mentioned, but I’m not sure if he’s going to end up running now that there are already two candidates. Who else could run? Maybe a business guy or self-funder?

      Personally, I really like the idea of somebody with no voting record going up against Dent. You’ll have popular poll-tested positions going up against a really lousy right wing voting record. That RyanCare vote is going to make for some great ads.

  10. David Haines would be the strongest of all the candidates you mentioned. Hes got that folksy charisma the locals down here go for plus hes known in alot of social circles with his volunteer work.

  11. The way i hear it is Haines will only decide to enter if Callahan backs out of a rematch. I beleive the DCCC has made contact with Callahan to have another go at it but John has not declared his intentions.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      That’s what Eaton said too, and he’s in, so I guess John’s not running. John doesn’t seem to be trying very hard to raise money either.

    • Great. “I’m a New York lawyer, vote for me!”
      Despite Jon’s tunnel vision of focusing on the issues, expect to hear Dent frame, once again, the carbetbagger campaign.

  12. The fact that someone took the bar exam in New York doesn’t mean he’s a “New York lawyer” in the sense of ever actually practicing there. If someone plans to work in DC, especially, it makes the most sense to take the bar in California, Delaware or New York (the three jurisdictions that don’t allow someone to waive into becoming a member of their bars without taking their bar exams). DC is famously undemanding about who is allowed to waive into practicing there — most other jurisdictions require that you have been a member of your original bar for several years first.

    If you look at the resumes of most DC lawyers who work for big law firms, Congress or the executive, you’ll see they took the bar in another state (usually where they went to school, where they’re originally from, MD or VA).

    As for Eaton’s background, it seems weird to call “carpetbagger” on someone who spent most of his life either in this district or in the military. I mean, are you really going to count someone’s Army years against him in calculating whether he’s a native son? I doubt Dent will try that.

    Regarding Eaton’s application for a job on the House Oversight committee, I think that will actually play to his advantage in the general election. To the extent that on-the-fence voters are concerned about electing a Democratic yes-man for Obama, Eaton can point out that he is willing to be critical of the president when there are real problems (eg the process by which the Solyndra loan was re-upped), but that unlike Dent he’s not a kneejerk partisan attack dog against the president.

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