Heck, Graves, Dedicated Pragmatists, Will Not Seek Re-Election in 2020

December 5, 2019 by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON – Rep. Tom Graves, the most senior Republican in Georgia’s House delegation, announced Thursday that he will not stand for re-election in 2020.

In a letter to constituents in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District, northwest of Atlanta, Graves said, after some reflection over the Thanksgiving holiday, he decided it was time to “pass the baton.”

“Now it’s my turn to cheer, support and sacrifice for those who have done the same for me over the last two decades,” the 49-year-old lawmaker said.

“With Julie near retirement and my kids now suddenly adults, I have decided not to seek reelection … and instead, join my family in their new and unique journeys,” he added.

First elected to the House in 2010, Graves was initially seen as a Republican fire-brand, leading an anti-Obamacare crusade that led to a government shutdown in 2013.

But as the years went on he became more and more of a pragmatist, most recently serving on the House Appropriations Committee and the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress.

As vice chair of the latter, Graves showed intense dedication to improving how Congress functions and the working lives of those who labor on Capitol Hill.

On Thursday, Grave’s Democratic counterpart and fellow co-chair of the Modernization Committee, Rep. Derek Kilmer said, “Over the past year, when people ask what I’m excited about, among other things I’ve said is ‘working with Rep. Tom Graves … to get Congress working better for the American People.’

“Finding common ground in this polarized time takes work, but he’s been a terrific partner,” Kilmer added. “I look forward to more progress in the coming months.”

Following on the heels of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s appointment of finance executive Kelly Loeffler to an open Senate seat, Graves’ announcement immediately set off speculation that he may challenge her.

While his growing bipartisanship alienated some conservative Republicans, voters in Graves’ district rewarded him with overwhelming re-election victories.

Last year, when a blue wave was encompassing much of the rest of the country, Graves received 77% of the vote in his district.

Graves is the second Georgia Republican to announce he won’t seek another term in the House. The first, Rep. Rob Woodall, said he wouldn’t stand for re-election after narrowly winning in 2018.

Graves is also the second House member to announce his retirement this week.

On Wednesday, Rep. Denny Heck, D-Wash., a member of the House Intelligence Committee who participated in last month’s impeachment hearings, made a similar announcement.

Heck, who represents a district outside of Seattle, said “rest and reflection” over the Thanksgiving holiday led to his decision.

“It is incredible work, but it takes its toll,” Heck wrote in a post on the Medium website.

“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,” the 67-year-old lawmaker said. “At our age, however many ‘good years’ we have left together is not a growing number.”

He went on to say that he’d been left “discouraged” by the process of compiling the impeachment report of the House Select Committee on Intelligence.

“The countless hours I have spent in the investigation of Russian election interference and the impeachment inquiry have rendered my soul weary,” Heck said.

“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,” he said.

In a statement, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer commended Heck for his long career in public service, which began more than four decades ago and included serving as Majority Leader of the Washington State House of Representatives and as Chief of Staff to the former Governor of Washington, Booth Gardner. 

“Those of us who have served with Denny in Congress know that he is a steadfast and principled legislator, a fierce defender of justice and opportunity, and a tireless advocate for transparency and accountability in government,” Hoyer said.

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