Rep. Norm Dicks (D)
Washington 6th District
The rainiest part of the continental United States is its far northwest corner, where the Olympic Mountains of Washington thrust into the Pacific Ocean. The waters of the Pacific evaporate, condense and then mist or rain down on the hills and mountains that jut up from the ocean and Puget Sound. The mountains here are always green, the trees that line the inlets towering, and during heavy rainfalls, the rivers can rise six feet a day. This has long been lumbering and fishing country, where people start work at 6 a.m. and where the vagaries of nature and environmental laws—like the ban on old-growth logging to protect the habitat of the spotted owl—have strengthened a traditional surly independence and suspicion of authority. Still, respect for the beauty of nature endures, including at the 3,310-square-mile Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, a vast underwater reserve. There are some fears that too much land is being bought up to build subdivisions and second homes.
2008 Presidential Vote
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The many inlets of Puget Sound, winding sinuously through mountains, are among America’s most picturesque waterways and strategically among its most important. During World War II, shipyards were built to shelter much of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific fleet, and during the Cold War, much of the nuclear submarine fleet was anchored at the giant Bremerton Navy base. The Tacoma Straits Bridge was built to replace a narrow span that, in a scene preserved on newsreel and still viewed by civil engineering students, started vibrating on the wrong harmonic in high winds and collapsed in 1940. On the other side is Tacoma, long the second-ranking city on Puget Sound, with its massive docks, former pulp mills, pleasant hilly residential neighborhoods and recently revived waterfront.
The 6th Congressional District of Washington includes the Olympic Peninsula, Bremerton, much of surrounding Kitsap County and most of Tacoma. Politically, the Olympic Peninsula and Bremerton are working-class Democratic. Tacoma also is traditionally Democratic. Seattle and King County were somewhat more Republican than Tacoma and Pierce County as late as the early 1980s, but now they are much more heavily Democratic. In 2004, the district voted 53%-45% for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, and in 2008, it voted 57%-41% for Democrat Barack Obama.
Rep. Norm Dicks (D)
Elected: 1976, 17th term.
Born: Dec. 16, 1940, Bremerton .
Education: U. of WA, B.A. 1963, J.D. 1968.
Family: Married (Suzanne); 2 children.
Professional Career: Legis. asst., U.S. Sen. Warren Magnuson, 1968–73, A.A., 1973–76.
The congressman from the 6th District is Norm Dicks, a Democrat first elected in 1976. He is the chairman of the Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee. Dicks grew up in Bremerton, the son of a shipyard worker. At the University of Washington, he was a 185-pound linebacker who was dubbed “Dizzy Dicks” and played in two Rose Bowls. After graduation from the university’s law school, Dicks joined the staff of Democratic Sen. Warren Magnuson, one of the best senators of his time. The job put Dicks on a political fast track. When 6th District Rep. Floyd Hicks, a Democrat, left Congress to accept a judgeship, Dicks got his chance to jump from staffer to member. He ran a hard-charging campaign and prevailed in a four-candidate primary, then cruised to a 74%-26% general-election victory. Unlike Magnuson, who took advantage of an early opportunity to run for the Senate while in his 30s, Dicks stayed in the House. He signaled his intentions early on, with the unusual feat of winning a seat on the Appropriations Committee in his first term, over a fellow Democratic freshman named Al Gore. In his second term, he got a seat on the Defense Subcommittee, of vital interest to the 6th District and to the country’s military. Although Dicks ultimately rose to chairman of the Interior and Environment subcommittee in 2007, Dicks has remained quite active on the Defense panel.
|Norm Dicks (D)||205,991||(67%)||($1,159,193)|
|Doug Cloud (R)||102,081||(33%)||($18,408)|
|Norm Dicks (D)||96,862||(57%)|
|Doug Cloud (R)||51,300||(30%)|
|Paul Richmond (D)||14,983||(9%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (71%), 2004 (69%), 2002 (64%), 2000 (65%), 1998 (68%), 1996 (66%), 1994 (58%), 1992 (64%), 1990 (61%), 1988 (68%), 1986 (71%), 1984 (66%), 1982 (63%), 1980 (54%), 1978 (61%), 1976 (74%)
Dicks has a moderate voting record and has been considered more supportive of military spending and an interventionist foreign policy than most House Democrats, in the tradition of noted former Washington Sen. Henry (Scoop) Jackson. He has often quoted Jackson saying, “I’m not a hawk or a dove. I just don’t want my country to be a pigeon.” During the post-Cold War downsizing of the Pentagon, he worked with Gore and Armed Services Chairman Les Aspin of Wisconsin in support of the MX missile, successfully looked out for cuts in the budget for the F-117 Stealth aircraft and pushed for expanded production of the B-2 Stealth bomber. He was vindicated when the B-2 was used in the bombing of Serbia and Kosovo in 1999, Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, delivering weapons with pinpoint accuracy and sometimes flying halfway around the world to do so. In the 1980s, Dicks helped Texas Rep. Charlie Wilson covertly send money and equipment to Afghans who were trying to repel invading Soviets. (Wilson’s swashbuckling involvement in Afghanistan was chronicled in a book and a 2007 movie, Charlie Wilson’s War.)
Dicks voted for the Iraq war resolution in 2002 and rounded up support for it among Democrats. In 2005, he said he’d been misled by the Bush administration’s claims of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and regretted his past support. Unlike Defense Subcommittee Chairman John Murtha of Pennsylvania, he did not favor withdrawing U.S. troops on a six-month timetable. But he was angry about Republican attacks on Murtha, with whom he has served on the subcommittee since 1979. He voted for a nonbinding resolution calling for withdrawal and for a war supplemental appropriation with a timetable, but he voted against a version of the spending bill demanding immediate withdrawal.
Dicks certainly does not neglect the 6th District’s military facilities. The Bremerton Naval Shipyard, by far the largest employer in Kitsap County, is also the largest naval shore facility in the Pacific Northwest. The 2005 base-closing procedure moved two nuclear subs from Groton, Conn., to Bremerton, in line with the nation’s increasingly Pacific Rim-oriented military stationing. The base-closing round also increased personnel at Fort Lewis near Tacoma, Bremerton Naval Station and Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. Dicks worked hard to promote a $23 billion, 10-year lease of up to 100 Boeing 767s to replace aging KC-135 tankers. Opponents, notably Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., argued that it would be cheaper in the long run to design a new tanker. The deal came undone after the criminal convictions of a top Boeing official and the Air Force’s top procurement officer on bribery charges. Dicks said, “Misconduct blew the deal. It is painful. It would have been the greatest thing I had done.” He has consistently supported the acquisition of more C-17 transports than the Pentagon has requested. He has been harshly critical of the Army’s record on procurement of the Future Combat System, and he opposed former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s proposed changes in collective-bargaining and union agreements.
But Dicks’ close ties to the defense-contracting establishment have also caused him some problems. In 2009, the Federal Bureau of Investigation began investigating his relationship with the PMA group, a defense lobbying firm under federal investigation for possible improper campaign donations. Since 2003, Dicks has received $84,000 from donors with ties to PMA, and he supported nine spending earmarks worth $20 million that benefited PMA clients. During that time period, only three other members of Congress received more money from donors linked to PMA.
Dicks’s first year as chairman of the Interior-Environment Subcommittee on Appropriations put him at odds with Bush administration, which tried to compel him to eliminate almost $1 billion from the subcommittee’s appropriations bill in 2007. Dicks criticized the White House for refusing to negotiate spending proposals, but he also expressed displeasure with Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for deciding to cut billions of dollars from appropriation bills in order to ensure their passage. As an Appropriations subcommittee chairman, and so a member of the powerful “College of Cardinals,” Dicks relishes the collegiality and relative bipartisanship of Appropriations. Over the years, he has helped Washington communities win federal contracts and funding, sending $1.2 billion to lumber-mill towns when logging in old-growth forests was banned in the campaign to save the spotted owl, passing timber-salvage riders to keep mills going, and finding federal dollars for maintaining salmon runs in dammed rivers. He helped get funding for the multi-billion-dollar Hanford Reservation cleanup, for light rail in Tacoma, and for revitalizing the city’s once-grimy waterfront. He hammered out a deal with the Skokomish tribe and a Bellingham seafood company to end the dumping of salmon carcasses into Hood Canal, which suffered from algae overgrowth. He wants to designate Hood Canal as critical habitat for orcas and other whales. He fought to get $36 million to reopen Mount Rainier National Park in May 2007; it had closed after suffering severe storm damage in November 2006. In 2008, he objected to the Bush administration’s attempt to end a ban on bringing loaded weapons into national parks.
Dicks has supported free-trade agreements and was one of the few House Democrats to vote for the Central American Free Trade Agreement in 2005. He was a strong supporter of normalizing trade relations with China. One-quarter of U.S. exports to China go through Washington ports. In the early 1980s, Dicks took the lead in restoring Export-Import Bank loan authority—Boeing is America’s biggest exporter and biggest user of the loans—when the Reagan administration wanted to cut it, and he led a campaign that switched 80 House votes overnight.
Dicks had something of a close election in 1980, but he has been re-elected by wide margins ever since.