PORT ANGELES — State Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz is dropping out of the race for governor to run for U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer’s 6th Congressional District seat following the representative’s announcement he will not seek re-election in 2024.
Jefferson County Commissioner Kate Dean also is considering running for Congress, along with a state senator from Union.
“The challenges we face extend beyond the borders of Washington, and so must our solutions,” said Franz, a Democrat, in a statement issued Friday.
“I am running for Congress to bring my vision for bold, transformative action to our nation’s capital and keep fighting for families across our region,” she said.
In an email, Franz said she’ll focus on continuing Kilmer’s record of economic development.
“I’ll be focused on lowering costs that are pushing working families out of the middle class,” Franz said. “I’ll also prioritize supporting our veterans and military families and ensuring they have affordable healthcare, childcare and housing. And of course, taking on the climate crisis that threatens all of us, but especially coastal communities.”
Franz’s campaign also said she’s been endorsed by several politicians including Kilmer and state Rep. Mike Chapman, D-Port Angeles.
“As lands and wildfire chief, Hilary Franz has proven herself to be a bold, strategic leader with a track record of bringing people together from across the state and from different backgrounds to find solutions to our shared problems,” Kilmer said in Franz’s announcement.
Dean, also a Democrat, has also expressed interest running for Kilmer’s seat, although she has yet to formally declare her candidacy.
Dean said in an interview that she would take some time to seriously weigh the feasibility of running but that she’s always been interested in the position.
If elected, Dean said she would prioritize bringing in more federal dollars for housing, keeping infrastructure funding coming to the county and ensuring reproductive rights.
“Most of the federal housing programs don’t favor rural areas, so we don’t compete very well for those dollars,” Dean said, noting the need for regulatory reform in that area.
Dean also expressed disappointment that Franz had already received several endorsements and said that, although she’s originally from Bainbridge Island, Franz has lived for several years in Seattle.
Franz’s campaign said she currently lives in Grays Harbor County.
“I really believe our district should put forward somebody who’s lived and worked here,” Dean said. “I worry she doesn’t represent our district as a wealthy Seattle attorney.”
Despite the increased partisanship in the U.S. House of Representatives, Dean said she still has faith in America’s democracy and ability to function.
“We need people willing to engage,” Dean said. “The worst thing is when politics gets so dysfunctional that people don’t throw their hat into the ring.”
Also considering a run for the seat is Republican state Sen. Drew MacEwen, R-Union. In a phone call, MacEwen said he was forming an exploratory committee and would start taking formal steps to run in the coming weeks.
MacEwen has served as state Senator for the 35th Legislative District, which covers Mason County and parts of Kitsap and Thurston counties since 2013 and said he knows the district well. He hadn’t considered running as of Thursday morning, he said, but upon Kilmer’s announcement, things changed very fast.
“We’ve got to get some economic stability,” MacEwen said of his priorities for Congress. “Inflation is out of control. There’s a massive tax burden coming from the top down.”
MacEwen said ensuring funding for infrastructure and the local military are key, as is strengthening the employment sector and continuing to grow the use of the area’s natural resources.
“There comes a time when you’ve got to change an organization by injecting civility into it,” MacEwen said of the partisanship in the House. “I have a strong record of bipartisanship and I’ll take that same bipartisanship and civility with me to Washington (D.C.).”
Washington’s 6th Congressional District covers the entire Olympic Peninsula and includes all of Clallam, Jefferson, Kitsap, Mason and Grays Harbor counties as well as part of Pierce County, including part of the city of Tacoma.
With a population of roughly 773,000, the district has consistently voted Democrat for president and Congressional representatives for more than 20 years.
Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.