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WA Congressmember Derek Kilmer won't run for re-election in 2024

caption: Washington Congressmember Derek Kilmer meeting with Northwestern Mutual representatives at his office in Washington, D.C.
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Washington Congressmember Derek Kilmer meeting with Northwestern Mutual representatives at his office in Washington, D.C.

After six terms as Washington's representative in the 6th Congressional District, U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer said he's planning for life outside of Congress.

Kilmer, a Democrat, will not seek re-election in 2024. In his announcement Thursday, he framed the news from his perspective as a father, recalling how he has discussed his job with his children and the reasons behind his exit from D.C.

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"I’ve looked at life in chapters," Kilmer said in a statement. "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 6th Congressional District."

The 6th Congressional District covers the Olympic and Kitsap peninsulas, as well as Tacoma. Kilmer grew up in Port Angeles. After working in the business and nonprofit scene, he was elected to Washington's House in 2005. He then moved to the state Senate in 2007, and served until he was elected to Congress in 2012. He is currently serving his sixth term.

In Congress, Kilmer has largely focused on issues around economic development, military families, treaty obligations, and the environment. He worked on programs to deliver internet access to rural areas.

But he is perhaps most known as a politician who can bridge divides and who is more interested in getting work done than culture wars or partisan bickering. In his announcement, Kilmer pointed to the Modernization Committee he is a part of, which "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."

Kilmer also led the New Democrat Coalition, which he calls 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.”

But now Kilmer said the national politics chapter of his life will come to a close. He intends to keep working for the issues he has championed in Congress, but he also aims to get back to family life.

"As nourishing as this job has been, it has come with profound costs to my family," he said. "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 6. 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."

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