With Norm Dicks’ retirement, state will lose a power player

U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks dropped a small bombshell this morning with the announcement that he will retire at the end of his term rather than run for re-election.

The 71-year-old Belfair resident is in his 18th term in the U.S. House of Representatives and was a lock to win number 19 this fall.

Instead, as he noted in a statement, he and his wife Suzie “have made the decision to change gears and enjoy life at a different pace.”

Dicks and his booming voice arrived in the House in 1977.

In his career he’s made a mark as an appropriator of dollars to interests in Washington. His most fierce pursuits often involved funding for protection and clean-up of Puget Sound and defense-related projects including bringing U.S. Navy vessels to the Port of Bremerton and landing the aerial refueling tankers contract at Boeing.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., issued a statement calling Dicks a “true Washington state institution.”

“But more than that, he is my mentor, my friend, my advisor, my teammate, and my brother. He is our state’s quarterback here in Congress, and I can’t imagine our delegation without him,” she said.

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash, who also described him as an institution, said Dicks “has carried on a great tradition, following in the footsteps of his mentor, Senator Warren Magnuson.

“Often times, people would refer to Norm as Washington’s third senator. His impact on Washington state will be felt for generations to come,” she said.

Here is the full text of the Dicks’ statement:

“I am announcing today my intention to complete my service in the House of Representatives at the end of the current session but not to be a candidate for re-election to the 113th Congress. After 18 terms representing the people of the 6th Congressional District of Washington, preceded by eight years on the Staff of Senator Warren G. Magnuson, Suzie and I have made the decision to change gears and enjoy life at a different pace.

“The privilege of serving in the House of Representatives, with the endorsement of the voters every two years, is indeed an honor unlike no other profession in our country and I have truly enjoyed every day here and have cherished all of the friendships we have made with many of the finest public servants in the nation. I am proud that many of these friendships have crossed the ideological and party lines that tend to separate us, and I have always believed that we can achieve greater results if we leave politics aside when the election season and the floor debates are over.

“As I look forward to closing this chapter, I am proud of the work we have done over the years and the accomplishments that we have achieved for the people of the Pacific Northwest, including:

• Protecting the waters of Puget Sound and Hood Canal: clean water is one of our region’s highest priorities.

• Community Development – Restoring vitality of downtown Tacoma and Bremerton

• Maintaining a strong national defense and keeping our state’s numerous military bases modern and efficient, including recent efforts to rehabilitate and restore in-base schools for military dependent kids.

• Elwha River Restoration – An internationally-significant ecological project that is in its final stages, with deconstruction of the two Elwha River dams now occurring.

• Supporting Boeing programs that employ tens of thousands of Washington workers, including helping to win the contract for the new Air Force refueling tanker.

• Addressing the many important human service needs in communities across the 6th District, including support for housing programs and for the establishment and continuation of Community Health Clinics, which often represent the only source of medical care for families who have lost health benefits due to job changes and unemployment.

• And I am very proud of the work that my offices have done, throughout my career, to help individual constituents with the many thousands of problems and questions that are referred to us. I have appreciated the work of my dedicated staff, who have always acted as powerful advocates seeking assistance from federal agencies.

“It is my intention to work very hard over the next several months, as the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, to conduct our Committee’s hearings and to complete work on all of the FY 2013 Appropriations bills.”

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