PORT ANGELES — Gov. Jay Inslee is at the top of U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer’s list for president, the 26th District representative said of his Democratic Party colleague.
But Kilmer, whose 6th District includes Clallam and Jefferson counties, is not ready to make an endorsement, he said Friday in a 75-minute interview in his native Port Angeles, where he graduated from high school in 1992.
Kilmer, now a Gig Harbor resident, expounded on climate change and the Green New Deal, topics related to Coast Guard Air Station/Sector Field Office Port Angeles, and what he believes will be the legacy of the 116th Congress, which began meeting earlier this year.
He took a wait-and-see attitude on impeaching President Donald Trump, saying Special Counsel Robert Mueller should complete his probe into Russian interference into the 2016 U.S. elections before Kilmer even considers such a move.
Kilmer struck an optimistic note on the future, predicting Congress will act this year in a bipartisan manner on health-care access, infrastructure development, and mental health and opioid treatment issues, noting, too, that Congress is “underperforming dramatically.”
Inslee, one of 16 Democrats who have announced their candidacies for president, has touched base with Kilmer on his intentions.
“We had a conversation with him early on in terms of his running,” Kilmer said.
The field presents “an embarrassment of riches,” including Inslee, who stands out, Kilmer said.
“I think someone with executive experience who recognizes the seriousness of the threat of climate change and who has certainly worked to try to grow our state’s economy is an important voice,” he said.
On Tuesday, Kilmer clarified his views of Inslee’s candidacy in an email:
“I intend to support Jay but haven’t announced a formal endorsement yet,” Kilmer said.
“He’s been a friend, a constituent, a champion for defeating climate change, and a fantastic public servant in our state for more than 30 years.”
Kilmer was interviewed at the end of a day that began Friday morning in Port Townsend.
There, at a round-table discussion with community leaders, he discussed the Maritime Washington National Heritage Area Act, which he cosponsored.
He spent mid-day Friday visiting the Coast Guard station at Ediz Hook, where a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held in September for the Navy’s second submarine escort-vessel dock in the nation.
Afterward, Kilmer said the 425-foot pier is functioning as intended, with ancillary alert-forces facilities providing sleep and respite for the security crews who accompany Naval Base Kitsap’s Bangor-based ballistic-missile Trident submarines for exercises in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
While at William R. Fairchild International Airport, Kilmer was honored by port officials for his legislation that makes life-safety and emergency needs a factor for determining FAA-approved runway lengths.
Because of that legislation, runways the size of Fairchild’s 5,000-foot runway are now eligible for Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) funding.
The goal of port officials is to obtain maintenance funding for the full 6,347 feet of runway.
Kilmer, his staff and area emergency responders had a Composite Recycling Technology Center bench dedicated to them “for their tireless work to prioritize medical evacuations and emergency preparedness in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018,” according to the bench plaque.
“All oars were in the water, rowing in the same direction in a really powerful and constructive way,” Kilmer said of the FAA’s decision.
“This community deserves a tremendous amount of credit for that.”
While at Fairchild, Kilmer also talked with area emergency responders for about a half-hour.
They made their case for urging the Coast Guard to base emergency helicopters at the west Port Angeles airport to ensure the aircrafts’ safety — and ability to fulfill emergency missions — during a tsunami.
During a massive Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake, for example, Ediz Hook could be inundated by more than 6 feet in tsunami-driven waters.
“I basically said, let us ask some questions, and we’ll follow up,” Kilmer said he told the first responders.
“I committed to them that we’d have a conversation with the Coast Guard.”
Green New Deal
Kilmer also addressed the Green New Deal, saying he’d rather focus on specific legislation to combat climate change than a broad statement of purpose.
The GND, as some call it, is a nonbinding resolution introduced Feb. 7 by Democratic U.S. Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.
“My interest is less on debating the specifics of a seven-page nonbinding resolution,” Kilmer said.
“What will actually move the needle is binding policy, not nonbinding resolutions,” he added, optimistic that a new majority in the House “thinks climate change is real and that we should do something about it as a nation.”
The 6th Congressional District is already seeing the impact of climate change, Kilmer said.
Several tribes, including the Hoh, Quileute and part of the Makah, are moving to higher ground, not to mention fire dangers growing in the Pacific Northwest’s rainy climes.
“There could be jobs associated with a pivot to renewables, with modernizing our electrical grid, with transitioning away from fossil fuels,” he added, calling it “shameful” that the U.S. is not fulfilling its obligations under the Paris Climate Agreement.
“I’m less interested in what the bumper sticker is,” he said.
“I’m more interested in, is there a willingness to take big, bold action that actually addresses the issue of climate change.”
HR 13, referred Feb. 4 to the House Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Justice, would impeach Trump “for high crimes and misdemeanors,” according to the resolution.
“The resolution sets forth an article of impeachment stating that President Trump prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice during a federal investigation,” it says.
“I favor having Director Mueller empowered to complete his work,” Kilmer said.
“I think it would be a mistake for Congress to try to circumvent that or scuttle that.
“I think it would be a mistake for the executive branch to do anything to disrupt Director Mueller’s important work.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].