6th District voters send Kilmer back for fifth term in Congress | 2020 Election

Posted 11/11/20

Election Night was coming to an end, and the clock was ticking toward midnight.

Congressman Derek Kilmer was awake, and working on an Election Night tradition: writing a letter to his young two …

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6th District voters send Kilmer back for fifth term in Congress | 2020 Election

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Election Night was coming to an end, and the clock was ticking toward midnight.

Congressman Derek Kilmer was awake, and working on an Election Night tradition: writing a letter to his young two daughters with words worthy of what had happened.

With millions of votes still to be counted, and an anxious nation watching and waiting, the ending wasn’t yet exactly clear.

But for Kilmer himself, the outcome in his race for Washington’s 6th Congressional District was more certain.

Ahead in the initial vote tally by landslide proportions, the Gig Harbor Democrat was well on his way to a fifth term in Congress over Republican challenger Elizabeth Kreiselmaier.

According to Monday’s updated vote tally, Kilmer had 59.5 percent of the vote to Kreiselmaier’s 40.2 percent.

“I feel good. I feel very grateful for the support we got all over the district,” Kilmer said Wednesday, the day after Election Day. “I’m very grateful for the support from Jefferson County, which was really positive.”

On Nov. 4, Kilmer was still looking to make sense of the 2020 Election.

“One, we don’t know who the president’s going to be yet. There’s a lot of ballots to be counted. Election Night is going to be Election Nights. And Election Week.”

“Clearly it’s a very divided time in our country,” Kilmer said, noting parts of the U.S.where President Trump has racked up wins. 

In Washington state, however, Kilmer said he felt good about the state’s support for Joe Biden, incumbent Gov. Jay Inslee, and the Democratic lawmakers in the 24th District who were on the way to retaining their seats.

For his part, Kilmer said his focus remains on economic opportunities, as it has since he was first voted into the U.S. House of Representatives eight years ago. 

He grew up on the Olympic Peninsula, and recalled being in high school “when the timber industry took it on the chin.”

“I’ve been very focused on just how do we help people navigate a really disruptive economy, rather than be victimized by it,” he said.

Government needs to work better for people, Kilmer said.

“There is an exhaustion with the gridlock in Washington, D.C. And I look at my job as two parts. One is to stand my ground on behalf of our values and the community I represent.

“There is no common ground to be had when Donald Trump proposed drilling for oil off our coast. There is no common ground to be had when this administration separated children from their parents at the southern border. We are going to fight against that.”

He also pointed to his involvement as a co-chair with the Bipartisan Working Group, a caucus of consensus-seeking Republicans and Democrats who work to solve problems.

“But the other part of my job is to find common ground when we can, even though that can be hard,” Kilmer said. “For me to get stuff done for our region I’ve got to get folks with a different letter next to their name on board with my ideas.”

Kilmer is also chair for the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, another bipartisan group, which just released its final report two weeks ago and included nearly 100 recommendations and findings to make Congress more efficient, effective, and transparent. The committee’s report also suggested ways to encourage civility and bipartisanship in Congress, as well as ways to reform the budget and appropriations process.

Kilmer noted that effort didn’t get much attention.

“It didn’t go viral on social media,” he joked.

“People want this,” Kilmer added.

Civility seemed to be in short supply this election season, in the 6th District race, as well. 

Kreiselmaier repeatedly characterized Kilmer as a “radical” and a “socialist” during her campaign, and a top supporter of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and “AOC and the Squad” (referring to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan). 

Kilmer said he had not spoken with Kreiselmaier during the race, who acknowledged Thursday on her Facebook page that her campaign had fallen short: “We didn’t reach 51 percent, but we did go farther than prior challengers in this race, so in that, at least, we can all take heart. I am especially humbled by and grateful for the many, many dear folks who donated and/or volunteered to help with my campaign. You have all been such a blessing and I truly appreciate you.”

Kilmer, as well, was thankful for those who helped his campaign.

Volunteers in Jefferson County made more than 7,000 calls for his campaign as well as for other candidates up and down the ballot.

“That’s really amazing,” Kilmer said.

“We have a motto on my team: Don’t agonize, organize.”

“It’s not productive to be hand-wringing. It’s a lot better to use those hands to make phone calls,” Kilmer said. “The turnout in Jefferson County is a real testament to so many incredible, motivated people who put that adage to work and just hustled to make positive change in this country.”

Kilmer said he was impressed by the young people who got involved in the 2020 election.

“It was just really inspiring to see young people saying, I’m not a passive observer of my community and my country. I’m a participant. I’m going to put in my time and energy to make things better,” Kilmer said.

“The fact that so many showed up, participated and let their voice be heard, especially in Jefferson County, is a recognition of that,” Kilmer added.

The congressman recalled the words of President John F. Kennedy: “We will get the kind of political leadership, be it good or bad, that we demand and deserve.” 

It was a message echoed in his Election Night letter to his daughters.

“Elections and campaigns are really about choice. Do we choose unity or do we choose division; a positive high road or a negative low road,” he said. 

“And I’m very humbled that folks in our neck of the woods chose to re-elect me,” Kilmer added. “Even though it was my name on the ballot, their choice was about all of us — the future we all want.”

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