Herger remembers ‘incredible highs and incredible lows'
US Rep. Wally Herger gave his formal goodbye to Congress on Tuesday, saying he was humbled by his district's support and glad to be replaced by someone who "knows what it is like to drive a tractor and get mud on his boots."
Herger, who served 26 years in the House, will be replaced by Doug LaMalfa, who resigned as a state senator in August to seek the congressional seat.
A special runoff election between Republican Jim Nielsen and Democrat Mickey Harrington will be held Jan. 8 for LaMalfa's former Senate seat.
"I was deeply honored and humbled when the good people of Northern California elected me 26 years ago to be their representative," Herger said.
"I came to Washington as President Ronald Reagan, one of my personal heroes, was wrapping up the final years of his second term. That was more than a quarter-century ago, and yet the years have moved by at a breathtaking pace. Time does not permit me to even begin to recount the memories," Herger added. "There have been incredible highs and incredible lows, but I will always treasure the time I was allowed to serve in this amazing institution that was forged by the wisdom of our Founding Fathers."
Herger called his colleagues in Washington a second family, thanked his own family for their support and his staff.
He also said he will miss the fight.
"I know that when I pick up the morning newspaper next January, and I read about the enormously important issues that are being put to a vote, a part of me will wish I could still be here to fight the battle," Herger said.
Despite his lengthy tenure and great popularity in his district, Herger never emerged in a party leadership role and is widely considered to have a generally quiet résumé who has followed the lead of the Republican leadership.
But supporters said Herger has been a stalwart champion for the North State, often doing his work behind the scenes and arguing he most definitely had his influence on critical issues facing his district.
And despite that long history, Herger will be remembered by many for calling a self-described right-wing terrorist a great American at a Redding town-hall meeting.
The remarks made national news and became a target for Democrats, who Herger has routinely blamed for the problems of the country.
"In my two decades of service, the thing that has always struck me the most about my constituents is that what they really want most from the federal government is simply to be left alone. They do not want a new program," Herger said in his farewell comments. "They want to run their small businesses, their farms, and their mills without being wrapped up in 15 yards of red tape. They want to compete, they want to prosper. They understand the premise of this country — personal liberty. The freedom to pursue a dream. The concept of risk and reward. That is not too much to ask."
Herger said he intends to spend more time with his family, noting particularly his grandchildren and his wife, Pam.
"I have deeply appreciated the opportunity to serve with you, and I extend my deepest thanks to the constituents of Northern California for allowing me the extraordinary privilege of fighting for them in the United States House of Representatives. Thank you," Herger said.