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Former state lawmaker Denny Heck to pursue Baird's U.S. House seat

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Denny Heck, the former five-term state legislator who founded the TVW television network, announced Wednesday that he will run for Brian Baird's 3rd Congressional district seat.

Heck, an Olympia Democrat, is among nine candidates vying for the seat after Baird announced last month that he will retire after six terms representing Southwest Washington in Congress. With Baird out of the picture, Republicans and Democrats say the district could swing either way, which will bring unprecedented levels of attention and money to next year's race.

"I'm expecting a very difficult challenge," Heck said in an interview Wednesday at The Daily News. "I'm personally a little tired of politics by shouting. But at the end of the day it will be a clash of ideas and direction."

Heck said he will focus his campaign on creating jobs and economic recovery in the 3rd District.

"Meaningful long-term growth in the economy will come from the private sector, not from the federal government," he said. "But federal government policies could be better-aligned with that objective."

Heck said he supports tax incentives for investing in small businesses and tax credits for employers who create jobs. He said he also supports reinstating the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, which was effectively repealed in 1999 and prevented commercial banks from engaging in the investment business.

"I'm a believer in a market-based economy," said Heck, who has invested in several companies. "I literally practice it every day. But that doesn't mean that all forms of market-based economy work. That was bad capitalism that caused, to this day, one in four mortgage holders to be under water. ... We need financial institution reform to, frankly, protect Americans from bad capitalism."

Heck, who was born in Clark County and now lives in Olympia, was elected to the state House of Representatives in the 17th Legislative district in 1976. He served five terms, then worked as chief of staff for Gov. Booth Gardner.

In 1993, he founded the TVW public affairs TV network, which has been compared to C-SPAN for its coverage of state politics. He was an original investor in Real Networks, one of the earliest companies providing streaming media technology on the Web. He co-founded Intrepid Learning Solutions, which provides education services to businesses. He co-owns a land development company and is the lead investor in Digital Efficiency, which provides electronic medical records to health care providers.

Heck, 57, said he was thinking of anything but running for Congress in mid-December when he learned Baird wouldn't run next year. He said he'd placed his iPhone on a podium while moderating a panel of legislators at a Spokane chamber of commerce forum when a text message announcing Baird's retirement popped up.

"I had probably a minor cardiac arrest," he said. "I was just stunned."

Yet, Heck said, he felt "an immediate tug" toward the idea that his business experience could help the nation's economy recover if he were elected. He said his father was a truck driver and Teamster whose blue-collar job provided his family with a "good middle-class income."

"It makes me heartsick every day that that seems to be fading from what is available to people," he said.


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