Exit Interview: Doug Heye
Keeping the party on message is what GOP communications guru Doug Heye has always been paid to do. Thinking things through and behaving graciously are the highly prized extras colleagues say he brought to the negotiating table.
A seasoned political operative who helped the Republican National Committee get the word out before rising through the ranks to become deputy chief of staff for communications to ex-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., Heye is saying goodbye to Congress (for now) while he goes in search of new adventures.
“I hear the Yankees need a new shortstop next season,” he floated in his farewell email to the Capitol Hill community.
He leaves Congress with few regrets. “I never learned how to get to the Dunkin’ Donuts in the Library of Congress — that’s probably a good thing,” he quipped.
Heye even managed to sound wistful about burning the midnight oil.
“On some summer nights, the military bands will play on the east front of the Capitol. Opening up the window to listen while working late is nice,” he said. Per Heye, there are a number of people he’ll miss bumping into, including Reps. George Holding, R-N.C.; Patrick T. McHenry, R-N.C.; Richard Hudson, R-N.C. (“my old college classmate,” Heye said); Doug Collins, R-Ga. (“a smart member with a bright future”); Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn.; Robert Hurt, R-Va., and Martha Roby, R-Ala. (“[Both] can always bring a smile to a member or staffer”); Peter Welch, D-Vt.; John Delaney, D-Md.; and Gregg Harper, R-Miss.
A Collins aide said the lawmaker has come to cherish the feedback Heye routinely provides. “Doug has always gone out of his way to compliment and encourage him after a particularly good floor speech or statement, and that’s always meant a lot,” Team Collins told HOH.
Welch praised Heye for helping find common ground on the pediatric research bill that President Barack Obama signed into law earlier this year.
“We actually went through this legislative battle where I was deviating from the leadership,” Welch said of the hard-fought measure.
At least part of the reason they persevered, Welch said, was Heye’s ability to divorce himself from the rancor and remain focused on the end goal. “He could take a half-step back and have a critical eye about things that were happening on his side,” Welch said, adding, “He had a light touch. And that’s appreciated around here.”
Harper thanked Heye for helping to find an exit strategy to last year’s politically damaging government shutdown. “Doug and the entire Leader Cantor team helped bring the House out of that trying time and I’m grateful for that. I hate that the House is losing him and all of his institutional knowledge but I wish Doug all the best in his retirement,” Harper said.
Confidence is medium at least part of that retirement will be spent in the company of former House aide turned lobbyist John Scofield (Heye billed Chez Scofield as his favorite spot to unwind), a longstanding pal with plenty of war stories to tell.
To wit, Scofield shared a trade secret he divulged to one of Heye’s unsuspecting bosses.
“I was talking to Doug’s chief of staff at the time, and she mentioned that he was at a breakfast meeting with a reporter. I said, ‘That is odd, since reporters are generally not morning people,’ which led to her figuring out that was his [Heye’s] fallback excuse when he needed a little extra shut-eye,” Scofield said. “I didn’t have an ounce of guilt on that one.”
That kind of closeness, Scofield said, was fostered over years of trying to keep their wits about them in mind-numbing, soul-crushing meetings.
“Heye is always able to find an appropriate amount of levity even in the most tense, serious situation,” he said. “That is a rare quality and one of the many reasons he is so highly regarded around town.”