U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer is leaving the House of Representatives, where he has served for nearly 11 years.
The Democrat from Gig Harbor, a native of Port Angeles, said on Nov. 9 he won’t seek reelection to the 6th Congressional District — which includes the North Olympic Peninsula — in 2024.
It has been an honor to serve, he said, but it’s time to move on from Congress.
“I’ve looked at life in chapters,” Kilmer said in a press release. “The decade I spent working in economic development. The eight years I spent in the Washington State Legislature. The nearly 11 years I’ve already spent in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“I never intended for this chapter to be something I’d do for the rest of my life, and — as I shared with my kids — I’m excited to start a new chapter when my term is complete.”
The move on Nov. 9 led state Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz to drop out of the gubernatorial race to run for Congress.
In an announcement made a day after Kilmer’s press release, Franz announced she’s running to represent the 6th Congressional District — with the endorsement of Kilmer.
The Seattle Times reported that Franz, a Democrat who has served as state lands chief since 2017, said her decision was made after talking with voters around the state about their concerns, such as rising prices, protecting abortion rights and the climate crisis.
“As lands and wildfire chief, Hilary Franz has proven herself to be a bold, strategic leader with a track record of bringing people together from across the state and from different backgrounds to find solutions to our shared problems,” Kilmer said in an announcement released by Franz’s staff.
“She’s been a leader in the fight against climate change and a champion for Washington’s working families, including throughout the 6th Congressional District. In a time when catastrophic climate events are happening with more frequency, our nation needs Hilary’s experience in Congress, and Washington needs her leadership.”
Also a Democrat, Jefferson County Commissioner Kate Dean has also expressed interest running for Kilmer’s seat, though she has yet to formally declare her candidacy. Dean said in an interview that she would take some time to seriously weigh the feasibility of running but that she’s always been interested in the position.
Also considering a run for the seat is Republican State Senator Drew MacEwen, R-Union. In a phone call, MacEwen said he was forming an exploratory committee and would start taking formal steps to run in the coming weeks. MacEwen has served as Senator for the 35th Legislative District which covers Mason County and parts of Kitsap and Thurston Counties since 2013 and said he knows the district well.
Washington’s 6th Congressional District covers the entire Olympic Peninsula and includes all of Clallam, Jefferson, Kitsap, Mason and Grays Harbor counties as well as part of Pierce County, including part of the city of Tacoma.
With a population of roughly 773,000, the district has consistently voted Democrat for President and Congressional representatives for over 20 years.
Kilmer has served in the 6th Congressional District since 2012. He pointed with pride to his work with the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, informally known as the “Fix Congress Committee,” which issued more than 200 proposed reforms to make Congress work better. The Representative did not state what he plans to do on leaving office and his office declined to comment further.
Kilmer said in his statement he experienced a fair amount of trepidation about joining an organization known for dysfunction and stated, “when I’m outside the institution, I’ll continue doing all I can to make things better.”
Kilmer also cited his work with the New Democrat Coalition, of which he has served as chair and currently serves as vice chair, as one of his accomplishments in Congress. The New Democrat Coalition describes itself as a “center-left” coalition of “pragmatic House Democrats who work across the aisle and across the Capitol to advance innovative, inclusive, and forward-looking policies.”
The core mission of his time in office has been to create more opportunity, Kilmer said, citing his work in securing funding for rural broadband and healthcare.
Kilmer also introduced the Rebuilding Economies and Creating Opportunities for More People to Excel, or Recompete Act, which passed out of the House with bipartisan support.
Provisions of that act were incorporated into the 2022 CHIPS and Science Act at the Distressed Area Recompete Pilot Program, offering grants to economically distressed areas.
Clallam and Jefferson counties are currently applying for grant funding under the Recompete program.
But service in Congress has taken a toll on his family life, Kilmer said, mentioning especially his children Sophie and Aven.
“Every theatrical performance and musical recital I missed. Every family dinner that I wasn’t there for. The distance I felt from my family for months after the events of Jan. 6,” Kilmer said.
“I am conscious that I didn’t always deliver in the way I wanted; and I hope they will forgive me for that. And I hope they know that I was really trying my best to make the world better for them.”
Kilmer said he intends to “keep the pedal to the metal until my final minute on the job,” and that he plans to continue to make a positive difference with his work after office.
Kilmer was re-elected to his sixth term in the House last year and currently serves on the House Appropriations Committee; the Interior and Environment Subcommittee; Defense Subcommittee and Energy and Water Development Subcommittee.
“It’s been an honor representing my hometown of Port Angeles — and the entire Olympic Peninsula. My upbringing — seeing the challenges facing our region — motivated my service,” Kilmer said.
“I’ve been honored to work for the Peninsula every day. I’d like to hope that the work I’ve done has provided more opportunity to folks who deserve it,” he said. “I intend to continue working on these issues through the completion of my term — and beyond.”
Kilmer’s statement can be read in full at his website, kilmer.house.gov.