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Heck: ‘I gave it all I had”

Dear Friends:

With the bulk of the Intelligence Committee’s work on impeachment behind us, Thanksgiving week provided me with a good opportunity for rest and reflection. I thought a lot about the privilege it is to serve the people of the 10th Congressional District and to be one of only approximately 12,000 people in our Republic’s history to serve in the US House. This is important work and there are many parts to the job I deeply love.

I have loved:

– handing the long overdue Purple Heart to the deserving soldier whose serious injuries had been overlooked by the authorities. Indeed, I loved advocating for all the service members and veterans who populate the District;

– forming the State Road 167 Coalition to successfully fight for completion of this critical roadway;

– standing up the Puget Sound Caucus with my friend and roommate, Derek Kilmer, and moving the needle on saving the Sound;

– leading the Congress on reauthorization of the job-creating Export Import Bank;

– writing the New Democrats’ Housing Task Force Report which helped to finally throw a spotlight on the national housing crisis;

– working on issues with Indian Country such as renaming the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge for my friend Billy Frank, Jr. and reauthorizing the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act; and

– the honor of serving on the House Intelligence Committee and being entrusted with our nation’s most sensitive security secrets.

Heck, I even loved becoming one of the House’s foremost monetary policy experts. How nerdy is that?

The opportunity to work on these issues and others was only possible through the support and good graces of the people of the district. I am eternally grateful to them. And I am equally grateful to the outstanding staff who have been a hard working and living testament to the promise of America’s future.

It is incredible work but it takes its toll. Being away so much from Paula, my best friend and wife of nearly 44 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.

In the spirit of complete openness, part of me is also discouraged. The countless hours I have spent in the investigation of Russian election interference and the impeachment inquiry have rendered my soul weary. 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.

As has been observed, however, to some degree he is a symptom and not the cause or at least the only cause. The truth is that civic discourse began degrading before him. At times, it is as though there are no rules or boundaries. Success seems to be measured by how many Twitter followers one has which are largely gained by saying increasingly outrageous things, the more personal the better. There are simply too many hyperbolic adjectives and too few nouns. Civility is out. Compromise is out. All or nothing is in.

None of this discouragement in any way diminishes the bone-deep gratitude I feel for the privilege to serve in Congress and for all who have made this incredible journey possible – my family, the voters of the 10th District, my staff and all the countless people who have extended a thousand kindnesses along the way. So, in less it hasn’t been clear enough: Thank you! But it is time for me to retire. 

I make this decision completely confident that there will be outstanding people step forward to take up the challenge to represent this beautiful corner of our great land. My only wish is that whomever emerges will remember the eternal wisdom of my former colleague John Dingell who was the longest serving member of the House in US history (59 years and 7 days) and who recently passed away. He would tell all incoming freshmen smart enough to seek his advice: “You have a very important job, a VERY important job . . . and you’re not a very important person.”

John taught us that we don’t “have” power but that we hold it in trust. It has been a privilege to hold this trust the last many years.

I promise to “run through the tape” until the end of my term and continue to work hard and give it my best. But after that, Paula awaits as well as at least two books I will write. And more movies and sleep and time at the cabin. Washington State so has it over Washington, D.C.

Finally, after more than 40 years of intermittent public service, know this: I got more out of it than I gave it, and I gave it all I had.


Denny Heck

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