WASHINGTON — Derek Kilmer, a Washington Democrat who has dedicated much of his time in office to modernizing Congress, announced Thursday he will not seek reelection in 2024.
In a statement, Kilmer talked about the toll his 10 years in Congress have taken on his family, especially when House members were hustled out of the chamber to get away from rioters trying to stop Congress from certifying the 2020 election.
“As nourishing as this job has been, it has come with profound costs to my family,” Kilmer wrote. “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.”
Kilmer has represented Washington’s 6th District since 2013. The district backed President Joe Biden by 17 percentage points in 2020 and if Kilmer had run, his race next year was rated Solid Democratic by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales.
Kilmer sits on the House Appropriations and Administration committees and is ranking member on the latter’s Modernization subcommittee.
Kilmer was born and raised in Port Angeles. He attended Princeton University as an undergraduate and then got a doctorate from the University of Oxford in England.
Before coming to Congress, Kilmer was a consultant with McKinsey & Co., then worked for the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County. He spent eight years in the Washington Legislature before winning election to Congress in 2012.
“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,” Kilmer wrote in his statement. “When I decided to run, I knew that part of my focus would be – simply put – on trying to make government work better.”
Kilmer led the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress — or ModCom, as it was known — for four years, starting in the 116th Congress, and helped draft a set of more than 200 recommendations to improve the legislative branch. The committee was known for its unorthodox approach to legislating. At ModCom hearings, Democrats sat next to their Republican colleagues in a roundtable format and there was no five-minute limit on questioning the way there is on most panels.
The select committee disbanded at the end of 117th Congress, but was re-formed as a subcommittee of House Administration in the 118th. Earlier this year, Kilmer also launched the Fix Congress Caucus — an offshoot of the select committee — with his former vice chair, Rep. William R. Timmons IV, R-S.C.
“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,” Kilmer wrote. “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 is also a former chair of the powerful New Democrat Coalition, a caucus composed of pro-business and fiscally moderate Democrats. He’s currently the caucus’ vice chair for policy.
A father of two, the 49-year-old Kilmer didn’t indicate his plans after Congress other than making more time for his family.
“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,” Kilmer wrote. “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.”
Kilmer is the latest in a recent string of resigning House members as the 2024 campaign season ramps up. Oregon Democrat Earl Blumenauer, Texas Republican Kay Granger and Colorado Republican Ken Buck all recently announced they won’t seek reelection.