“My strategy is to engage people, the voters in the 10th Congressional District, on issues that I think matter so much to the country and the people of the district – and that is to grow the economy,’’ the Democrat said last week in an interview at an Olympia deli.
Heck is one of six people who filed this month to run in the state’s newly formed 10th District. It runs from Shelton to Olympia and north and east as far as University Place and Puyallup.
Heck is founder of the nonprofit TVW public-affairs network, a former state House majority leader and a one-time chief of staff to former Gov. Booth Gardner.
He has described himself as wealthy, having benefiting from investments in high-tech firm RealNetworks and from a couple of businesses he started. One of his companies is a multistate firm, Intrepid Learning Solutions, that specializes in training for businesses; it employs 300 people.
Heck’s wife, Paula, is a former principal at Jefferson Middle School in Olympia, and their two sons are grown.
After losing a run for state schools chief two decades ago, Heck had appeared to leave politics behind. But he jumped back in two years ago to run for Congress in the 3rd District, back when it still stretched from Vancouver to the capital. He lost to Republican Jaime Herrera Beutler.
The new 10th trends more Democratic, but it pushes Heck into new territory – and into military neighborhoods different from his own near the Capitol. He’s made a point of raising a lot of cash – $1 million so far, or eight times what his closest competitor has – in a race that both national parties are likely to bombard with ads in a bid to control Congress.
Heck said he doesn’t want to see the race invaded by super-PACs of the variety that invaded the GOP’s presidential primary with hard-hitting ads. He said he is willing to reach out to the other five candidates to find agreements to persuade outside groups to leave the 10th alone – to let the candidates hold civil debates on issues that matter locally.
Whatever outside noise the race generates, Heck says the issues remain the same as in his last run: Jobs, jobs and jobs. And his solution is to invest in American know-how, workers, infrastructure and education. Here are his comments on a few issues:
ECONOMY: If there is one big change in his economic message from two years ago, it is in his emphasis on housing as a key to recovery.
“I think I have come to be more committed to helping on the housing side. I probably have a deeper understanding of the need to do it as way to get the broader economy going,’’ he said.
That is why Heck said he wants to see the federal government-sponsored enterprises – Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – refinancing more loans at the lower rates. He admits the Obama administration could have been doing more on this. More action would make many families’ debt more affordable and keep more foreclosures off the market, thus supporting prices and demand.
To that end, he said, these major lenders should write down principal for some borrowers caught when the real estate downturn put their loans underwater – even if it costs them money.
BUDGETS AND TAXES: Heck favors letting the Bush-era tax breaks expire next year, except for those earning less than $250,000. He said a growing economy can help reduce the size of the debt.
HEALTH CARE: Heck would have voted for the Democrats’ reform in 2010 and says more work needs to be done to curb the cost of health care, if the law survives its legal challenge at the Supreme Court. He said the same need to curb costs also is a solution to fixing Medicare, which he described as being “in real trouble.”
One solution is to reward more medical school graduates for going into primary care, he said.
Heck offered no quick solutions to a situation in which the court strikes down the law. “I guess I’d be interested in knowing what those who opposed the health care reform have’’ to offer, he said. “I just hope people understand that health savings accounts and purchasing insurance plans across state lines is not a solution.’’
MILITARY: Heck says he still favors ending the country’s involvement in Afghanistan as soon as possible. He also says returning war veterans are going to be a big priority for him.
He said veterans groups are looking for competence, not necessarily military experience. He recently received an endorsement from Veterans Alliance for Security and Democracy, which usually supports Democrats.
Heck expects military issues to figure in the race. Besides Afghanistan, he said, there are potential nuclear threats from Iran and North Korea to contend with, and there is always the threat of al-Qaida’s re-emergence. He said the U.S. did a “spectacular job” of smashing the terrorist organization and killing leader Osama bin Laden.
He said that, looking ahead, the country should be “making smart investments” in the military to counter cyber security threats, the next frontier.
SOCIAL ISSUES: He favors a woman’s right to choose an abortion as guaranteed under current law. He also favors recognition of same-sex marriages.
CLIMATE CHANGE: Heck believes human-aided climate change is settled, scientific fact. He favors a push to increase the use of alternative energy and tax incentives to reward people who conserve.
The candidate’s position is in sharp contrast to his chief GOP rivals, who don’t see a clear need for government to respond to climate change. But Heck said it is important to understand that “virtually 97 percent of the scientific research … has indicated there is a real and present danger.’’
CIVILITY: Heck said he thinks the “jury is still out” on whether he as an individual can make a difference in Congress. But he wants to try.
The congressional meltdown over the debt limit last August – in which House Republicans refused to adjust the debt to accommodate spending already approved by Congress – discouraged many Americans. But Heck said it “hardened” his resolve to go to Congress.
Asked how he could change the culture he said he would try just “by being civil, by trying to stay focused on solutions. By trying to find a way to keep talking to each other as adults so we can solve some of these problems.”
He said that “America deserves two adult parties” and that “what I have problems with is people drawing lines in the sand at the get-go.’’Editor’s note: Staff writer Brad Shannon talked with the six candidates for Washington’s new 10th Congressional District about their campaigns for the seat created by post-census redistricting. The race offers what is, for much of the district, the first wide-open congressional election in 20 years. The first two interviews, with Republicans Dick Muri and Stan Flemming, appeared earlier this week. Here is the third. firstname.lastname@example.org 360-753-1688 theolympian.com/politicsblog