Rick Daugherty, 51, is one of two candidates seeking the Democratic nomination and a chance to challenge four-term Republican incumbent Rep. Charlie Dent in November.
A graduate of Moravian University with a degree in social work, Daugherty is a married father of three children. For the past 16 years, he has been director of the nonprofit Lehigh County Senior Center.
His experience with seniors is why his number-one priority will be fighting for seniors by preserving programs like Medicare and Social Security, he said.
“I’m not running because somehow I think this is a magical year and I can win,” he said. “I’m running because I’m very serious about the issues, and I think it is my civic duty to run.”
Daugherty said he was inspired to run for Congress by a Republican proposal supported by Dent to privatize Medicare by giving seniors vouchers with which to purchase health insurance.
Daugherty said a voucher program is unsustainable, and he was outraged by the way Republicans touted it as an improvement over the existing Medicare system.
“What really annoyed me was some Republicans were telling seniors they were doing it so they could give them the same great health-care benefits as members of Congress,” he said. “That is simply not true. You know, I can respect someone if they are selling it honestly, … but to make false claims like that is just not right.”
Daugherty also said he will focus on job creation and is a strong supporter of trade unions. He opposes the global free trade agreements that both Republicans and Democrats have adopted in recent years, including President Barack Obama.
“I think they have effectively wrecked our manufacturing base and ruined our economy,” he said.
In addition to his party committee work, Daugherty also has experience working as the district administrator for Rep. Paul McHale, who preceded Dent.
The PL Democrat said he was planning to run for the 15th District seat before the redistricting, which added unfamiliar parts of Lebanon and Dauphin counties.
“It is still odd coming up to people and saying, ‘Hi, I’d like to be your representative. Can you tell me how to get to grocery store?’” he joked.
Although he will have strong support from his friends in the Lehigh County Democratic Party, Daugherty acknowledged that campaigning in such a large district will present a financial challenge.
However, he believes his message is a strong one that will overcome any financial disadvantage he might have in the primary and general elections.
“If my message doesn’t resonate with you, it doesn’t matter if I stuff your mailbox 10 times,” he said. “If my message does resonate with you, I only have to get it to you one time.”
Daugherty recently received the endorsement of the Dauphin County Democratic Committee. The Lebanon County Democratic Committee does not endorse in the primary.
The other Democrat running in the April 24 primary is Jackson Eaton, a 34-year-old attorney from Allentown who had been a lifelong Republican.
Eaton recently explained his party switch borrowing the line Ronald Reagan used when he switched from Democrat to Republican, that “he didn’t leave the party, the party left him.”
From his viewpoint, Daugherty said, he was puzzled by Eaton’s switch.
“When Reagan was president in the ’80s, he fired the air traffic controllers; Republicans were calling poor people lazy; James Watt, the secretary of Interior, wanted to clear-cut the forests, and ketchup was considered a vegetable,” he said. “That was a long time ago, and that is where the Republican Party was. But I don’t see what’s changed. I don’t quite understand why he (Eaton) switched.”
Daugherty’s website is daughertyforcongress.com