SOUTH BEND — U.S. Rep. Brian Baird ended his silence Saturday on which candidate he favors to succeed him, endorsing Democrat Denny Heck for the 3rd Congressional District seat he is vacating after six terms.
“I have no doubt that Denny Heck is going to be a great member of Congress, running for the right reasons,” Baird said. “He brings a unique combination of experience, knowledge and skills that no one else can match.”
Baird discussed his endorsement during the annual Pacific County Democratic Crab Feed in South Bend, the oldest political function in Washington and a traditional venue for political announcements.
He said that Heck is the kind of person who would be able to reach across party lines and a candidate who is well-acquainted with the 3rd District.
“Almost everywhere I go in the district, Denny has already been there,” Baird said.
“I don’t expect that Denny and I will agree on everything," Baird added. "I think he will make good decisions.”
Baird also said that he and his wife are going to support Heck’s campaign financially.
Heck welcomed the endorsement Saturday, the first time he and the congressman had met since Baird decided to endorse him.
“Actually, I’m a little choked up,” Heck said. “This is very generous-spirited of him.”
In a statement released by his campaign, Heck said he was honored to win Baird’s endorsement.
“He knows what it takes to be a strong advocate back east for the families here in Southwest Washington, and knows the economic challenges and opportunities in this district,” Heck said. “I look forward to his advice during the campaign.”
Until now, Baird has been mum about his choice, although he did contribute $2,000 to the campaign of state Rep. Deb Wallace, D-Vancouver.
Wallace dropped out of the race Feb. 20, saying her duties in Olympia would keep her from reaching the $300,000 fundraising mark she needed to achieve by the end of March to remain a viable candidate.
Heck has no such problem; he gave his campaign $100,000 in seed money and raised another $115,000 in the last eight days of 2009, after he announced he would run.
For his part, Baird had a campaign chest of $551,664 left over from past campaigns as of Dec. 31.
Sen. Craig Pridemore of Vancouver, the third major Democratic candidate in the race, is lagging in fund-raising but has vowed to work “16 hours a day” once the Legislature completes its work. The Legislature adjourned Thursday but will return to Olympia Monday for a special session that is expected to last about a week.
On Saturday, Pridemore said he didn’t expect to get Baird’s endorsement because they disagree over heath care and other issues.
Heck won Gov. Chris Gregoire’s endorsement in January. He has spent the past two and a half months traveling throughout Southwest Washington, campaigning on the need to create new jobs for struggling communities in the 3rd District.
Born in Vancouver, Heck, 57, graduated from Columbia River High School and Evergreen State College in Olympia. He was elected to the state House of Representatives at age 23 and served from 1977 to 1985, representing the 17th District, which then included portions of Clark, Skamania and Klickitat counties. In the Legislature, he served as Democratic majority leader, then resigned to become chief clerk of the House of Representatives.
In 1988 he lost a campaign for state superintendent of public instruction. He later served as chief of staff to former Gov. Booth Gardner.
In 1993, he co-founded TVW, the state’s public affairs television network, where he hosted an award-winning public affairs program. He retired from TVW in 2003 and has spent the last several years as a business entrepreneur.
Kathie Durbin: 360-735-4523 or firstname.lastname@example.org