Norm Dicks, the dean of Washington’s congressional delegation, has just issued a surprise announcement through his office explaining that he has come to the decision not to seek reelection to the U.S. House this year.
I am announcing today my intention to complete my service in the House of Representatives at the end of the current session but not to be a candidate for re-election to the 113th Congress. After eighteen terms representing the people of the 6th Congressional District of Washington, preceded by eight years on the Staff of Senator Warren G. Magnuson, Suzie and I have made the decision to change gears and enjoy life at a different pace.
The privilege of serving in the House of Representatives, with the endorsement of the voters every two years, is indeed an honor unlike no other profession in our country and I have truly enjoyed every day here and have cherished all of the friendships we have made with many of the finest public servants in the nation. I am proud that many of these friendships have crossed the ideological and party lines that tend to separate us, and I have always believed that we can achieve greater results if we leave politics aside when the election season and the floor debates are over.
Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell each immediately issued statements thanking Dicks for his service to the state.
“Norm Dicks is a true Washington State institution. But more than that, he is my mentor, my friend, my advisor, my teammate, and my brother. He is our state’s quarterback here in Congress, and I can’t imagine our delegation without him,” Murray said. “Norm will retire from Congress leaving behind an incredible legacy of public service. Washington families will benefit from his hard work, passionate advocacy, and tremendous contributions for decades to come.”
“To me, more than anything, Norm is the guy who loves Washington state more than life, who would do anything to defend it, and who works everyone to the bone to make sure the families he represents are taken care of. And he doesn’t just fight hard—he wins. I will miss his voice here in our nation’s capital. And we will all miss his ability to make sure federal policy works for Washington state families.”
Senator Cantwell agreed, using some of the same language.
“Norm Dicks is an institution in Washington politics. He has carried on a great tradition, following in the footsteps of his mentor, Senator Warren Magnuson. For more than forty years, Norm has been involved in every major issue affecting our state – from protecting salmon and cleaning up the Puget Sound to supporting our military installations and fighting for the Air Force tanker.
“Oftentimes, people would refer to Norm as Washington’s third senator. His impact on Washington State will be felt for generations to come.”
The impact of Dicks’ decision to retire, however, will be felt immediately. While the newly redrawn 6th Congressional District certainly could be called a Democratic district, it is not a safe Democratic district. Dicks has held it for thirty-two years, but now his name will not be on the ballot in 2012. Republicans will definitely go after the seat — whether they will be able to field a credible candidate remains to be seen. Democrats don’t have a particularly deep bench in the 6th either, but there are a few state legislators who might be interested in running, like Derek Kilmer.
UPDATE: Governor Chris Gregoire has just weighed in with a statement:
There has been no greater advocate for our state than Congressman Norm Dicks. For nearly four decades, Norm has fought hard for Washingtonians – pushing Congress to take action to protect our military bases, our companies including Boeing, and of course the health of the Puget Sound. He has been a trusted partner, a staunch ally, and a close friend.
Washingtonians statewide will greatly miss Norm’s presence in Congress. He will leave behind a legacy that is unmatched. I wish Norm and his family all the best as they move into this next stage of their life – and on behalf of all Washingtonians, thank him for his steadfast service and commitment to our state.
It’s possible we’ll be hearing from President Barack Obama on Norm’s retirement a little later in the day. No doubt the White House is still processing the news.
UPDATE, 11:32 AM: And here is President Obama’s statement:
I want to thank Norm Dicks for more than thirty years of service on behalf of the people of Washington State. Norm has spent his career working to protect our national security, championing the men and women of our Armed Forces and fighting for the many natural resources of Washington State and the Pacific Northwest. Norm’s dedication to our nation’s intelligence personnel and his leadership on the Appropriations Committee will be missed in Congress and Michelle and I wish him and family well in the future.
UPDATE, 11:45 AM: More reaction in now, from Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, Attorney General Rob McKenna, and our Commissioner of Public Lands, Peter Goldmark. McGinn’s statement:
Norm Dicks championed his district while making the entire state his priority. He was a giant in Congress, an invaluable ally to Seattle, and he has left his mark across our state. We wish him well.
We have been well served by the long and distinguished career of Norm Dicks. He has been an effective and dedicated leader for the state of Washington for a generation. His steady leadership will be greatly missed. I hope he will continue to find ways to serve Washington State in the years ahead. I wish him and Suzie all the best.
Attorney General McKenna:
Congressman Norm Dicks’ dedicated public service has served Washington State well for over four decades. I respect him for focusing on getting things done in the legislative process, often on a bipartisan basis, and for putting the needs of Washingtonians first in his many congressional accomplishments. I wish Suzie and him well as they enjoy the next chapter of their lives.
And finally, here’s Dwight Pelz, chairman of the Washington State Democratic Party:
As the dean of Washington’s congressional delegation, Norm has been a tireless public servant and a leader in both Washingtons. Norm’s fierce advocacy for Washington’s working families and businesses helped bring the tanker deal home, his leadership on the Appropriations Committee secured Washington’s stature in the halls of Congress. No one has done more to protect the waters of the Puget Sound. After nearly four decades, he will be truly missed.
All of us at NPI extend our sincerest thanks to Representative Dicks for his many years of public service to our state. As evidenced by the statements above, few people are as widely respected in Washington politics as Norm Dicks.
To say that he is an Evergreen State institution — as Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell both did — is actually an understatement. It’s hard to picture our congressional delegation without Norm Dicks in it. The highlights alone of his legislative record could fill a book.
In 1976, when Dicks was first elected, Washington hadn’t even celebrated its centennial, and the new millennium was still a quarter of a century away. The state’s congressional delegation consisted of only seven representatives and two senators. In those days, the state was still represented by the legendary Warren Magnuson and Henry “Scoop” Jackson in the U.S. Senate. So much has changed since then. But Norm’s commitment to serve our state has remain unchanged.
We congratulate him on all of his accomplishments and wish him nothing but peace and happiness in retirement.