Derek Kilmer announces he won’t run for re-election in 2024

Posted on November 9th, 2023 By:

U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, announced Thursday that he won’t run for re-election in 2024.

Kilmer, 49, is in the middle of his sixth two-year term representing Washington’s Sixth Congressional District, which encompasses the Olympic and Kitsap peninsulas and most of the city of Tacoma.

When not in Washington, D.C., the Port Angeles native lives in Gig Harbor with wife Jennifer and daughters Sophie and Aven.

Kilmer said in a statement that he looks at life in chapters, including a decade working in economic development, then eight years in the state Legislature and now nearly 11 years as a congressman.

“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,” he stated.

Kilmer will serve out the remainder of his term, which ends in 2025.

Possible candidates

State Sen. Emily Randall, a Democrat from Bremerton, texted reporters later on Thursday saying that she is “seriously considering running for the seat.” Randall is in her second term representing the 26th Legislative District, which includes Gig Harbor.

Washington state Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz declared her candidacy on Friday. Franz dropped out of the race to governor, where polls show Attorney General Bob Ferguson well ahead in the race for the Democratic nomination.

The Seattle Times reported Friday that state Sen. Drew MacEwen, R-Shelton, is forming an exploratory committee with an eye on seeking the position.

Reputation as a moderate

Kilmer wrote that he’s proud of his work leading the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, also known as the “Fix Congress Committee.” The group of Democrats and Republicans passed more than 200 proposed reforms to make Congress work better. More than a quarter have been fully implemented.

“The Modernization Committee showed that Congress can do things better when folks check their partisan agendas at the door and just focus on working together,” he said. “Their work matters. To state the obvious, there’s a lot more work to do there. We are better than our current politics. I can’t think of a better way to close out my term than working with the new Fix Congress Caucus to continue the work of making Congress more functional.”

Kilmer said he has been honored to serve as a leader of the New Democrat Coalition, a group of pragmatic, problem-solving Democrats.

“Simply put, they’re focused on getting things done for the American people. Our politics could use more of that,” he said.

The core mission of Kilmer’s office has been to create more opportunity for more people in more places, he said, whether it’s helping people get broadband access, securing funds for rural ports, fighting for rural hospitals, delivering funds to address flooding, or standing up a new program to help areas facing persistent economic challenges.

U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor

U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor

Family matters

He said we do things better when we do things together.

“Whether working in coalitions to fix the traffic problems at Gorst, to manage our forests in a smarter way, to get a new veterans clinic built, to ensure the federal government fulfills its trust responsibilities to tribal communities, or to protect Puget Sound, our team has done good things,” he said.

As fulfilling as his congressional work has been, Kilmer said it has come at a cost to his family.

“Every theatrical performance and musical recital I missed,” he said. “Every family dinner that I wasn’t there for. The distance I felt from my family for months after the events of January 6th. 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.

“My plan is to ensure those chapters enable me to continue to make a positive difference. And I’d sure like to make a bit more time for those I love.

Education and work history

Kilmer, the son of two teachers, received a bachelor’s degree in public policy from Princeton University and a doctorate from the University of Oxford in England. He worked as a business consultant for McKinsey & company where he helped businesses, nonprofits and government agencies run more efficiently, then helped retain jobs and attract new employers with the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County.

He served in the state House from 2005 to 2007 and the state Senate from 2007 until taking over for Norm Dicks as U.S. Representative in 2012. He serves on the Appropriations Committee, Interior and Environment Subcommittee, Defense Subcommittee, and Energy and Water Development Subcommittee.

Dicks, a Bremerton Democrat, represented the Sixth District from 1976 to 2013. Neither Kilmer nor Dicks faced many tough election challenges in nearly a half-century representing the area. Kilmer won with over 60 percent of the vote in 2022.

Kilmer has been recognized by veterans organizations for his support of troops, their families and those who have served, and is a strong supporter of Naval Base Kitsap and Joint Base Lewis-McChord.