Nation & World

Denny Heck 9th to seek Baird's seat in Congress

Olympia businessman Denny Heck announced his bid on Wednesday to represent the 3rd District in Congress, kicking off his Democratic campaign in Vancouver, the district's biggest city.

Heck is a Vancouver native who won election to the Legislature in 1976, later co-founded the TVW public-affairs network and was ex-Gov. Booth Gardner’s chief of staff. He is the third Olympia-area candidate in the race and ninth overall.

The race got crowded soon after U.S. Rep. Brian Baird, D-Vancouver, said last month he would not seek a seventh term this year.

Heck said he will campaign on a jobs-creation theme, and he wants to help reverse a trend of 2000-09 – which, by his measure, saw negative job growth in the U.S. for the first time in seven decades.

“I don’t think we get to a healthy economy again until the private sector has been able to create these jobs,” he said.

Heck, 57, said many of the state’s counties with the highest unemployment are in Southwest Washington’s 3rd District. Among his suggestions are investment tax credits that reward companies for buying equipment and other tax credits that reward companies that hire.

Heck becomes a frontrunner for Democrats and a serious challenge to the GOP, Thurston County Republican Chairman Scott Roberts said.

“Denny Heck will be a formidable candidate. All others will need to bring their A-game,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Heck is among Democrats who gathered outside Baird’s Olympia office to protest after Baird voted against the House health-reform bill last fall. Heck said reform must do more to rein in costs to “keep health care from being a jobs killer.”

Heck is wealthy from investments he made in companies that flourished, including Real Networks; he also co-founded Intrepid Learning Solutions, is the co-owner of Bruin Development, and is the lead investor and chairman of Digital Efficiency, an electronic medical records firm.

Heck’s wife, Paula, retired as the principal at Jefferson Middle School in Olympia, and the couple have two adult children.

Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688