Politics & Government

Heck undecided but takes steps to run for Congress

Denny Heck, the founder of TVW and former chief of staff to a governor, says he filed federal campaign finance papers and fronted $100,000 to a potential campaign account Wednesday, moving the Democrat closer to a formal run in the 3rd Congressional District.

“I am doing a bunch to get myself ready so I can hit the ground running. Having said that, I have not pulled the trigger,’’ Heck said Wednesday. “This is a big, big, big decision and it bears serious deliberation. I’ve set a hard deadline of this weekend, and I will stick by that deadline” for deciding.

Four Republicans and four Democrats already are running just one week after six-term Democratic Rep. Brian Baird announced he will not seek re-election next year. The 3rd district runs from Olympia to Vancouver, Wash., and from the Cascades to the Pacific Ocean.

The Republicans include former senior congressional aide Jaime Herrera, who helped draft bills for U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers in 2005-07 before moving to southwest Washington and becoming a state representative; David Castillo, an Olympia-based financial adviser and former deputy assistant secretary of the federal Department of Veterans Affairs, and Jon Russell, a Washougal City Council member and operator of health clinics. David William Hedrick, a former Marine from Camas who confronted Baird during late-summer town-hall meetings, also has registered to raise funds.

Announced Democrats include Cheryl Crist, an Olympia peace candidate who also advocated universal health coverage in her 2006 and 2008 campaigns against Baird; state Rep. Deb Wallace, a Vancouver Democrat with a background in higher-education issues, and state Sen. Craig Pridemore, a Vancouver Democrat who served in the Army and as a Clark County commissioner.

Heck spoke by phone from Washington, D.C, where he said he was talking to members of Congress who could tell him “whether or not a U.S. congressman can have a worthwhile impact on peoples’ lives. I’m not a congressional creature. This is kind of foreign territory to me.’’

State Rep. Brendan Williams, D-Olympia, is still mulling his options, but state Sen. Karen Fraser, D-Thurston County, said she is not going to run, despite encouragement from supporters to consider it.

“A lot of people have encouraged me to take a look at it. I did do some investigation and I thought a lot about it,” Fraser said. “I think I could do a good job, but I’m not going to do it for a practical reason. You have to get your campaign organized and your initial funding in place by spring. That is when (the state legislative) session is, and I wouldn’t have time.”

Heck served in the state House out of Vancouver, was chief of staff for Gov. Booth Gardner in the 1980s, ran unsuccessfully for state schools chief in 1988 and later co-founded the TVW public affairs network and went into several business ventures. He said he hasn’t been in elective office for a quarter century and painted himself as a businessman who has helped create jobs.

“I frankly don’t see myself much different than my next door neighbors who think there is an awful lot about our politics that has become too partisan and too dysfunctional,’’ Heck said. “People are legitimately asking why only 20 percent of the stimulus has been spent and where are the jobs.’’

The Federal Elections Commission was unable to confirm immediately that Heck registered. Heck said he was co-founder of Intrepid Learning Solutions, a Seattle-based firm with offices in eight states that provides business services to major companies; co-owner of Bruin Development Co., which has commercial space in Thurston County; and chairman and lead investor of an electronic medical-records firm, Digital Efficiency.