Kilmer says job in Congress isn't child's play
Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, addresses a Port Townsend fish fry Sunday.
By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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Having accomplished that, freshman U.S. Rep. Kilmer on Sunday night spoke seriously about his goals as a representative while using his family, present at the fish fry, to underscore the importance of his mission.
Kilmer, a Gig Harbor resident who grew up on the North Olympic Peninsula, began with a conversation he had after Dicks announced his retirement, when a friend said that he “pitied the poor schmo who takes this job.”
“I am here to tell you that I am proud to be that schmo, and proud to be the first new congressman from the district in 36 years,” he said.
“Or as I like to say, since I was 2 years old.”
Kilmer's speech offered some new material.
“Last year, someone asked me why on Earth would I run for Congress when it's such a mess — 'and you have two little kids,'” Kilmer said.
“My answer was, [I ran] because it is a mess, and I have two little kids, and I want to do what I can to do to turn the Congress and the country around.”
Kilmer, whose sprawling 6th District includes all of Jefferson and Clallam counties, drew loud applause from the crowd of 300 by saying that he is sponsoring a bill that will ensure equal pay for all, as well as a constitutional amendment that will reverse the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision that designated corporations as people and equated money with speech.
He drew laughter with anecdotes about his daughters, Sophie, 7, and Tess, 4, who attended along with mom Jennifer Kilmer, and how the girls interact with their father, the congressman.
“Sophie and Tess joined me for my swearing in at the U.S. Capitol, which I thought was a good idea until I found out it was two hours long,” he said.
“I saw the potential for tears and tantrums on the floor of the House of Representatives.
“But then [I] realized under this tea party Congress, it won't be any different than any other day.”
Kilmer said he has participated in 10 town hall-style meetings since taking office in January, and has also sponsored online and a Twitter social-media forum.
The latter, he said, “wasn't easy because I had to keep it to 140 characters.”
While he sees these meetings as an obligation, he said his family isn't completely convinced.
“One morning, I was getting ready to go to a meeting when Sophie asked me why I was leaving,” he said.
“I said I gotta go meet with people, and she said, 'Why?'
“And I said that I gotta go answer their questions, and she said, 'Why?'
“And I said sweetheart, we live in democracy and you know that, and she said, 'Yeah.'
“So I asked her who's in charge in a democracy, and she said, 'The people.'
“And I said, 'Who am I going to go to meet with?'
“And she said, 'The people.'”
Kilmer said Sophie turned the conversation around, saying that she was “the people,” asking:
“Does that mean you work for me?”
“So I said, 'Yeah, kind of,' and then she said: 'Well, then, give me candy.'
“That, I believe in a nutshell, explains the problems with the federal budget.”
Kilmer criticized the House Republican leadership, but said there are several members of both parties who want to work together.
“The good news is there are people in both parties who actually want to solve problems,” he said.
“The bad news is the people who run the House believe compromise is a dirty word, and they define success by their ability to make the president a failure.”
Kilmer said that one of his goals was to help to take back the House from its current leadership.
“I spend way more time than I would like voting no on bad bills, including four times voting against the repeal of the Affordable Health Act,” he said.
“I would like to be voting yes on bills that advance our principles, like strengthening our education and helping people get back to work and protecting our planet.”
Kilmer concluded his talk by picking up the story of his swearing in.
Daughter Sophie asked him: “So what happens now?”
“I said, 'Well honey, now we get to work.'”
Also honored at Sunday night's event was Jefferson County Commissioner Phil Johnson, D-Port Townsend, for his opposition to finfish aquaculture.
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or email@example.com.
Last modified: August 26. 2013 6:15PM