Denny Heck speaking
U.S. Representative Denny Heck speaks at the Northwest Progressive Institute's 2014 Spring Fundraising Gala (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Unit­ed States Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Den­ny Heck, who has rep­re­sent­ed Wash­ing­ton State’s 10th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict since its incep­tion in 2012, announced today that he will be a can­di­date for the office of Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor, fol­low­ing incum­bent Cyrus Habib’s deci­sion to for­go reelec­tion so he can join the Jesuits.

“We are enter­ing an unprece­dent­ed era where a civ­il and fair approach to pol­i­tics is urgent­ly called for to get things done for Wash­ing­ton fam­i­lies,” Heck said in a state­ment sent to the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute. “Espe­cial­ly in times like these, we need civil­i­ty and decen­cy in our polit­i­cal dis­course and bold eco­nom­ic lead­er­ship to rebuild eco­nom­ic pros­per­i­ty to every community.”

Heck­’s inter­est in run­ning has been an open secret in polit­i­cal cir­cles around these parts for a cou­ple weeks. Heck began putting togeth­er a cam­paign last month.

Heck announced sev­er­al months ago that he would not seek reelec­tion to Con­gress this year. A pletho­ra of can­di­dates have stepped for­ward to run for his seat, from State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Beth Doglio and for­mer State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Kris­tine Reeves to for­mer Taco­ma May­or Mar­i­lyn Strick­land and Phil Gardner.

In a can­did open let­ter, Heck explained that he decid­ed against pur­su­ing anoth­er term in the Unit­ed States House after the Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee com­plet­ed its impeach­ment inquiry last autumn. As a mem­ber of the com­mit­tee, Heck had a promi­nent role in ques­tion­ing wit­ness­es like Lieu­tenant Colonel Vindman.

“The count­less hours I have spent in the inves­ti­ga­tion of Russ­ian elec­tion inter­fer­ence and the impeach­ment inquiry have ren­dered my soul weary,” Heck explained in his let­ter.  “I will nev­er under­stand how some of my col­leagues, in many ways good peo­ple, could ignore or deny the President’s unre­lent­ing attack on a free press, his vicious char­ac­ter assas­si­na­tion of any­one who dis­agreed with him, and his demon­stra­bly very dis­tant rela­tion­ship with the truth.”

He also expressed a desire to be near­er to his wife Paula, allud­ing to the toll that fly­ing across the coun­try many times a year takes on a person.

“Being away so much from Paula, my best friend and wife of near­ly forty-four years, can be lone­ly even when I am in a crowd­ed room. At our age, how­ev­er many ‘good years’ we have left togeth­er is not a grow­ing num­ber,” Heck said.

Habib’s recent deci­sion to step down as Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor cre­at­ed the per­fect open­ing for Heck. The job entails pre­sid­ing over the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate when it is ses­sion, which is only a few months out of the year, chair­ing the Sen­ate’s Rules Com­mit­tee, and fill­ing in for the gov­er­nor when the state’s chief exec­u­tive is out of state. The Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor has his­tor­i­cal­ly also been a key link between state gov­ern­ment and con­suls based in the Pacif­ic Northwest.

Those are all duties Heck could take on with­out hav­ing to be far from his fam­i­ly. By serv­ing as Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor, Heck can con­tin­ue to give back to the state he loves with­out hav­ing to com­mute to the Oth­er Wash­ing­ton. That, I under­stand, is ratio­nale for seek­ing the posi­tion, and it makes per­fect sense to me.

Denny Heck speaking
Unit­ed States Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Den­ny Heck speaks at the 2018 Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Crab Feed (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/Northwest Pro­gres­sive Institute)

Heck is the third cred­i­ble Demo­c­rat to declare for the office. State Sen­a­tors Marko Liias and Steve Hobbs are also run­ning. Incum­bent Cyrus Habib has cho­sen to endorse Liias. How­ev­er, Heck has the sup­port of many of his Demo­c­ra­t­ic col­leagues in Con­gress, along with for­mer gov­er­nors like Chris Gregoire.

“What our state and nation need now in posi­tions of respon­si­bil­i­ty, such as lieu­tenant gov­er­nor, is a steady hand, and Den­ny is as steady as they come,” said Gre­goire, who served as the state’s chief exec­u­tive from 2005 until 2013.

Heck­’s list of cam­paign co-chairs is impres­sive. It con­sists of:

  • For­mer Gov­er­nor Chris Gregoire
  • Con­gress­man Derek Kilmer
  • Con­gress­man Adam Smith
  • Con­gress­woman Kim Schrier
  • Taco­ma May­or Vic­to­ria Woodards
  • For­mer Everett May­or Ray Stephenson
  • Van­cou­ver May­or Anne McEnerny-Ogle
  • Ren­ton City Coun­cilmem­ber Ruth Pérez
  • Spokane busi­ness leader Susan Ashe
  • Port of Seat­tle Com­mis­sion­er Sam Cho
  • Envi­ron­men­tal activists Martha Kongs­gaard and Stephanie Solien
  • Com­mu­ni­ty vol­un­teer and con­sul­tant Lin­da Vil­le­gas Bremer
  • Com­mu­ni­ty activist George Scarola
  • Tri­al lawyer and civ­il rights activist Lem Howell
  • Nisqually Coun­cil Mem­ber Willie Frank III
  • Sov­er­eign pol­i­cy advo­cate Peggen Frank

Heck will offi­cial­ly file next month for the posi­tion. The August Top Two elec­tion will begin in mid-July and end on August 4th. The two can­di­dates who receive the most votes will advance to the Novem­ber gen­er­al elec­tion, regard­less of party.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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