After 10 years in Congress, Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-6th) announced Nov. 9 that he would not seek re-election. Three Democrats and one Republican have announced campaigns to succeed him.
The Democrats are Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, State Senator Emily Randall (26th-Bremerton) and Jefferson County Commissioner Kate Dean. Republican State Senator Drew MacEwen (35th-Shelton) was the most recent to throw his hat in the ring. All four met with KP News to discuss their candidacies.
Franz announced Nov. 10 that she was ending her bid for governor to run for Kilmer’s seat. That announcement included an endorsement from Kilmer.
Before serving as lands commissioner, Franz worked as an environmental lawyer, was on the Bainbridge Island city council and served as director of Futurewise, an environmental advocacy group. Her top issue, she said, is housing. Other key issues include economic development, workforce training, support of veterans, childcare and healthcare. “And I am on the frontlines of the threats of climate change every day.”
Her ties to the 6th congressional district go back to childhood. She lived near Portland but spent much of her time at her grandparents’ ranch with 400 cattle and 13 horses a “stone’s throw away” from the Tacoma Mall. She raised her three sons as a single parent in Kitsap County, moved to Seattle when they asked to attend their father’s high school, and, when her youngest graduated, she moved to Grays Harbor.
“Your life shrinks or expands according to how much courage you show,” Franz said about running. “If you live in fear or hesitation your ability to create change doesn’t happen.”
Randall announced her candidacy Nov. 16. “Deciding to potentially leave a job I have been so privileged to do, that I like almost every day, was a big decision,” she said. “I want to go to make Washington, D.C. work for us, to work across the aisle, to work with colleagues across the state and from other states, with other backgrounds to make sure we are doing the best for all our fellow Americans.”
Randall was raised in Port Orchard and both of her parents went to high school there. She was the first in her family to attend college. She worked as a community organizer prior to running for state senate in 2018. She serves as majority whip and is on the higher education, workforce development, transportation, and health and long-term care committees.
“I have run hard races before, so I know a little bit of what I am in for,” she said. “I am an optimist at heart. I believe in our country and our ability as individuals to enact positive change together. I believe our voices really matter and if we go into the fray driven by our values and our love for each other we can make a positive impact.”
Randall married her partner of 18 years this spring. “She wrote in her vows that she would support me in all my future campaigns,” Randall said. “She wasn’t expecting one so soon, but she was part of the team that decided this was the right thing to do.”
Dean declared her candidacy Dec. 5. “I think this district is such an extraordinary place,” she said. “Our district has some of the most important natural resources and shorelines and ecosystems in the world and they are being impacted by the growth along the I-5 corridor. I am concerned about the affordability and livability of our region because of those impacts.”
Dean has lived in Jefferson County for 25 years, where she farmed and co-founded Finnriver Cidery and Mount Townsend Creamery. She was regional director of the North Olympic Development Council before being elected as one of three Jefferson County commissioners in 2016 and ran unopposed in 2020. She also serves on the Washington State Board of Health and the Puget Sound Partnership Leadership Council.
She sees investments in infrastructure for housing, transportation, and the challenges to the environment as key issues.
“Campaigning is an enormous amount of work especially across such a large and diverse district,” Dean said. “Just three days into the campaign I could see I will lose control over my schedule and my life. The other frustrating thing about campaigning at a federal level is how much money is required. I have always been a grassroots politician. I want to get big money out of politics, but the reality is that to have a voice in our system you have to raise a lot of money.”
MacEwen announced his run Dec. 8. “An open seat at this level doesn’t happen often,” he said. “It is only the second time in a generation.”
He has served at the state level for 11 years: five terms in the state house and now in the Senate, representing Mason and parts of Thurston and Kitsap County.
“I want the opportunity to represent the larger portion of the Olympic Peninsula,” he said. “To be a voice for those who have been left behind — the blue-collar workers, the timber industry, the shellfish industry. We are always fighting on the regulatory front. I want to be a voice of reason.”
MacEwen moved to the Pacific Northwest during his time in the Navy in the 1990s and then to Union where he ran a small investment business. “Those things have helped me understand the needs of the district and hear the thoughts and concerns of the constituents,” he said.
“We need to increase our military infrastructure with the threats we face today,” MacEwen said. “We need to do better on the economic front. Ultimately, we need to look at how we can make the federal government function better. It’s been a long time since we passed a true budget at the federal level, much less a balanced budget. I have served on appropriations at the state level and serving there has given me a view as to how we can budget and work across the aisle.”
Since the district was established in 1933, the 6th congressional district seat has been in Republican hands only once — from 1947 to 1964. Norm Dicks served for 36 years before retiring and Kilmer replaced him in 2013. Kilmer won with 60% of the vote in 2022, and Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential race there with 57% of the vote.
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