LAS VEGAS — Major rumblings in Washington, D.C., quickly rippled through the crowd at the early-morning crowd of media executives, top D.C. attorneys and industry luminaries attending the Broadcasters Foundation of America 2018 Ward L. Quall Leadership Awards.
Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Paul Ryan will retire at the end of his term and not seek reelection. Among the first to offer a reaction was House E&C Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.). Could this former radio broadcaster be primed to fill Ryan’s shoes?
In a statement released midday Wednesday (4/11), Walden said, “Two years ago, House Republicans turned to Paul for leadership at a time when we needed it most. The grace and intelligence with which he met that challenge was inspiring, but not surprising to those of us lucky to call Paul a friend. From a Tortilla Coast waiter to the Budget and Ways and Means Committee chairmanships to the Speaker’s office, Paul has stayed the same good-hearted man who puts the best interests of the American people first in all things.
He continued, “Paul and I came to Congress at the same time and I’ve known Paul Ryan, the man, in a number of roles – as a representative, a chairman, and as our speaker. But there’s one role that’s always been the most important part of his life: being the father of Samuel, Elizabeth, and Charles and husband to Janna. As Paul prepares to leave elected office, I know he will cherish more time with his wife and children. I thank him for his career of service and wish Paul the best as he moves on to this new chapter of life.”
What’s next for Walden is already on the lips of one D.C. communications attorney in attendance at the Broadcasters Foundation event. He believes Walden is primed for the role. So does a media broker who has been following the series of retirement announcements from Capitol Hill closely.
Walden, of Hood River, Ore., represents the second district of Oregon.
Walden and his wife spent more than two decades as radio station owners in the Gorge. He’s also a licensed amateur radio operator (W7EQI). He put that small business and technology experience to work as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. In this role, he worked to pass legislation to grow American jobs by expanding access to wireless broadband, spur new U.S. technology and innovation, and protect the Internet from government control.
Walden’s ascent in Congress began in December 2010, when then-incoming Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) has named his slate of committee leaders. Named as Chairman the coveted Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet — a role now held by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) — was Walden, the former owner of Columbia Gorge Broadcasting.
That was the licensee of KIHR-AM 1340 and KCGB-FM 105.5 in Hood River, just east of Portland. The stations are now owned by Bicoastal Media.
At the time, Walden’s naming to the post received praise from NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith, a former Senator from Oregon.
“Greg is a remarkably gifted public servant steeped in the nuances of communications policy and broadcast-related issues,” Smith said in 2010.
This came one month after Walden was named chairman of the Republican leadership.
In his role on the House E&C Committee, Walden became a firebrand on many FCC issues during the tenure of former Chairman Tom Wheeler. He kept a close eye on the first LPFM proceedings in 2011. By August 2011, he was taking the FCC to task for the consideration of a standstill provision in a resolution of MVPD carriage disputes — something many had forgotten about at the time.
Today, Walden is set to ascend to the one of the highest seats in the lower body of Congress. It comes just after an appearance here in Las Vegas at the 2018 NAB Show applauded by many top industry figures in private conversations with RBR+TVBR.
Walden chatted NAB head Smith during the 2018 NAB Show Opening on Monday morning, Pacific Time.