November 09, 2023

Representative Derek Kilmer Announces He Will Not Seek Re-Election

Media Kit – Photo, Summary of Work, Biography

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06) announced that he will not seek re-election in 2024. The Port Angeles native, who worked in economic development and served in the Washington State Legislature before being elected to Congress in 2012, released the following statement:

“Over most of the past decade, each time I boarded the plane to DC, I would email my kids, Sophie and Aven, to explain to them why I was leaving – and what I’d be working on while we were apart. 

When they were little, those letters were elementary. “This week, I’ll be working for more jobs in our region” or “I’ll be fighting this week against things that might make it harder for you to have clean air or good health care.” My letters always ended with “Be good. I love you.”

Later, the letters became more complicated (covering Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, immigration reform, and the intricacies of the congressional appropriations process).

But a common thread in each of those letters was this – I tried to communicate to them that every day, in every way, I was trying make things better for their generation – and for their country.

In a letter I recently shared with my kids, I told them what I am now sharing with the folks I represent: I will not seek re-election next year.

I’ve looked at life in chapters. The decade I spent working in economic development. The eight years I spent in the Washington State Legislature. The nearly eleven 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.

It’s been an extraordinary honor to do this work – not just on behalf of my kids but also on behalf of the nearly 800,000 other folks who reside in Washington’s Sixth Congressional District.

There are projects and experiences that I have loved sharing with my kids.

I am proud of my work leading the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress (aka “The Fix Congress Committee”). Back in 2012 when I was contemplating running for Congress, I had a fair amount of trepidation about joining an institution known for its dysfunction. When I decided to run, I knew that part of my focus would be – simply put – on trying to make government work better. 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. That group of Democrats and Republicans were, to use the words of former Secretary John Gardner, “loving critics” of Congress. We passed over 200 proposed reforms to make Congress work better, and I’m proud that more than a quarter have already been fully implemented. I have so enjoyed working with the cohort of nonprofits, think tanks, and academics who have dedicated time and energy to making government work better. 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.  And when I’m outside the institution, I’ll continue doing all I can to make things better.

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. It’s why the core mission of my office has been to create more opportunity for more people in more places.  Whether it’s been helping folks get broadband access, securing funding for rural ports, fighting for rural hospitals, delivering funds to address flooding, or standing up a new program (called RECOMPETE grants) to help areas facing persistent economic challenges, 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. I intend to continue working on these issues through the completion of my term – and beyond.

My kids have heard more about the New Democrat Coalition than most Americans. I’ve been honored to serve as a leader in the New Dems throughout my tenure in Congress, including serving as chair just as our nation was gripped by the pandemic. The New Dems are the best kept secret in politics – a group of pragmatic, problem-solving Democrats who chase impact more than headlines. Simply put, they’re focused on getting things done for the American people. Our politics could use more of that. 

There are other projects I’ve told my kids about, trying to show them we can 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.

Indeed, I’m conscious that everything our office has accomplished stemmed from the terrifically talented group of professionals who have been a part of Team Kilmer. The members of our team have hearts for service and are whip smart. Our crew remembers every day who they work for – the people of the Sixth Congressional District.

And that holds true for me too. The work I’ve gotten to do every day was part of a contract signed by the people of the district I represent. I’ll forever be grateful for that honor.

As nourishing as this job has been, it has come with profound costs to my family. 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 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.

For me, that work isn’t complete. For one, there’s a lot to do, and I intend to keep the pedal to the metal until my final minute on the job. I’m a pretty young guy with more chapters in me. 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.  

No matter how the next chapter is written, I’ll keep telling my kids “Be good. I love you.”

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