By Will Edwards
Managing and Online Editor
The drinks flowed and the party in the Ballroom of the Renaissance Hotel in Allentown grew louder as the results of the election continued to come in. Republicans were winning big.
Charlie Dent, the United States Representative and Lehigh Valley native, had won his bid for re-election in Pa.’s 15th Congressional District. Ryan Mackenzie had been re-elected to the Pa. House of Representatives in the 134th Legislative District. And Donald Trump, with each passing minute, seemed to be on his way to a whirlwind upset in the U.S. presidential election.
Meanwhile, the Republican candidate for Pa.’s 132nd Legislative District, 2016 DeSales graduate Ben Long, seemed to be the odd man out. His campaign to unseat the District’s incumbent, Democrat Mike Schlossberg, was turning out unsuccessful. Schlossberg took 67 percent of the vote to win.
Long’s dream first job, working in the state’s House of Representatives, was not to be.
From the beginning, Long knew he faced an uphill battle. Lehigh County’s registered voters are roughly two-thirds Democrat, and the demographics in its 132nd District are no different. Knowing this, the 22-yearold ran a campaign focused on bipartisanship and finding answers he said would benefit constituents, not answers that would play into party politics.
“When you’re running as a Republican in a district that is overwhelmingly Democrat, you can’t run as an ideologically indoctrinated candidate. You can’t do it. So when you’re running in that type of a district, you better be pragmatic and have the capacity not only to win over Republican voters but also to win over a significant number of Democrats and Independents,” said Dent, who is going into his seventh term as a Congressman and who has been a mentor to Long over the course of his young political career.
“Ben really did try to be a consensus builder and pragmatic, but they apparently came up a little short tonight. But it really has more to do with the registration numbers than it is a reflection on him.”
Long also took to the streets, knocking on 15,000 doors in the District, trying to persuade voters. And he had help: 15 DeSales students– headed by Senior Class President Mike Camissa, the campaign’s Field Director–volunteered their time for the campaign, going door-to-door for their former classmate.
But as the night waned along with Long’s chances, it seemed for a moment to be all for naught. The months of hard work seemed to be without purpose. Long would wake up the next morning with no immediate sense of direction. The rollercoaster election cycle was over.
It was clear, though, as the recent college graduate talked with the friends that helped him throughout the campaign, and as he walked his parents to the hotel’s elevator and embraced them and began to come to terms with the results, that he thought the campaign’s efforts worthwhile and invaluable.
“It was the best experience of my life so far. I met so many great people, made friends within communities I never would have imagined,” Long said. “It puts things in perspective when you actually see people struggling and you hear stories of people having to make decisions between paying their school bill or for their medication. When you hear those stories, it makes you want to be their advocate, and unfortunately I can’t be their advocate in Harrisburg. But this is still my community. This is still my home.”
Long said he is uncertain of what lies ahead for him in politics, and that he will step back from it, at least briefly, in the immediate future. Some of his Republican counterparts—including Dent, Mackenzie and Trevor Waldren, the executive director of the Lehigh County Republican Committee—said he will have no problem finding success in public service, both in the long and short terms.
“I think Ben has a very bright future ahead of him,” Mackenzie said. “I’ve seen a lot of individuals, both in Pennsylvania time out as a candidate for state house and come back and win in future elections. So I think if that’s something Ben wants to do, I think that’s certainly going to be a possibility that will be open to him.”
But for Long, these were thoughts for another day. The precursor to wherever he might go next, he insisted, was a long night’s sleep.
“I fought the good fight, I finished the race,” he said. “As C.S. Lewis says, ‘There are far greater things ahead than anything you leave behind.’ We’ll have to take it one step at a time. I’m going to stay plugged into the community, I’m not going anywhere.”