Derek Kilmer’s Rise to Power


Derek Kilmer grew up in Port Angeles, Washington with two school teachers as parents. He went to Princeton University and earned a B.A. in public affairs. He also earned a Ph.D. in Comparative Social Policy from Oxford University. He then worked as a business consultant for McKinsey and Company and was the business retention manager for the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County. McKinsey and Company has been involved in multiple financial scandals, none of which directly involve Kilmer (although his association is important to note). It is also important to note that the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County is a private 501(c)(6) nonprofit and not a board that serves in an official capacity for Tacoma’s local government.

In both cases, Kilmer’s job was to advance capital and promote business, a goal he took with him as he entered the political arena in 2004.

2004: Washington State House of Representatives Legislative District 26 Position 2

Kilmer ran his first campaign on three pillars: Education, Jobs, and Transportation. In an interview with the Kitsap Sun, Kilmer says, “I really do think we’re at a critical stage here in the state. We have the second-highest unemployment in the nation, and we have big challenges in education and transportation.” He was quickly endorsed by the former representative Brock Jackley, Kitsap County Commissioner Chris Endresen, and Pierce County Democratic Party Chairwoman Jean Brooks. As the campaign became more competitive, huge amounts of money began flowing into this race. Kilmer raised more than $140,000, while his opponent, Republican incumbent Lois McMahan raised over $80,000. Kilmer’s endorsement list also grew to include the Kitsap Central Labor Council, the Sierra Club-Cascade Chapter, NARAL Pro-Choice Washington and the Olympic Peninsula Building and Construction Trades Council.

Kilmer and McMahan debated each other on healthcare costs, business incentives, and corporate growth management. Kilmer attacked McMahan on her vote against a bill that would authorize state agencies to purchase prescription drugs from Canadian wholesalers and pharmacies, her stance on a supermajority vote requirement for school levies and bonds, her lack of incentives for small businesses, and her approach to tort reform specifically in the context of medical malpractice. His campaign ran negative ads against McMahan in the final weeks leading up to the general election, and drew impressive media and donor attention as the party majority of the Washington State Legislature was up for grabs. By the end of the election, Kilmer had raised more than $230,000 and spent $185,000. Kilmer’s donors were both in-state and out-of-state as he was able to haul in donations from 24 other states, as well as $40,000 from the United Kingdom. When asked about his donors locations, Kilmer said he, “Basically called my friends.” McMahan also raised a considerable amount with a campaign war chest of $154,000.

Kilmer unseated Lois McMahan after a bitter and hotly contested election by a razor thin margin of 2%.

During his time as State Representative, Kilmer sponsored a state constitutional amendment to increase personal property tax exemptions, passed measures to approve a job creation tax credit, improved infrastructure, provided $10 million dollars in discounted tolls, and added financial protections for members of the National Guard or Reserves that own businesses.

2006 & 2010: Washington State Senate from the 26th District

In 2006, State Senator Bob Oake announced his retirement. Kilmer ran for the seat and won by a 20% margin. His win was part of a large sweep of Democratic neoliberal legislators. Seven new State Senators were elected; six of those were Democrats. In the State House of Representatives, the Democrats increased their majority by five seats, bringing the score to 62(D) – 36(R).

Kilmer’s campaign focused on education, small business, economic development, and healthcare. His opponent, Jim Hines (R), ran on a platform of limiting taxes and harsher penalties for sex offenders. Kilmer out-fundraised Hines by almost 4:1, hauling in $476,000 from 1800 individual donors. The Senate Democratic Campaign Committee spent $43,875. the Washington State Democratic Central Committee spent $50,000, and the 26th District Democrats spent $20,000. Kilmer spent this campaign money on television ads that highlighted his work with military families and veterans, as well as endorsements he had received. Kilmer touted his voting record, his Republican co-sponsored legislation, and his work ethic on the campaign trail.

At this time, he drew criticism when he said of gay marriage,

I believe we can address rights issues without redefining marriage. I don’t think we should discriminate against anyone.”

a line which he repeated when pressed on the issue again. While serving on the Washington State House of Representatives, Kilmer also served as a manager on the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County (EDB). When asked about this clear conflict of interest, Kilmer responded that the organization was a nonprofit and that his work on it did not interfere with his political decisions. He dismissed the idea of full time legislators, citing “real world jobs” as a reason for not only keeping the legislative work part time, but also his involvement with the EDB. Kilmer had originally agreed to resign from his position at the EDB if he was elected, he reversed this decision and stayed on board despite his previous agreement.

Despite the controversy, Kilmer was still elected, and by staggering margins (60-40). He was selected as the voice chairman of both the Senate International Trade and Economic Development Committee, and the Senate Higher Education Committee. This decision was assumably made based on his work with the EDB, as well as his experience as a trustee for the board of education at Tacoma Community College.

During his two terms as State Senator, Kilmer was praised as “one of the most pro-business Democrats in Olympia.” He drew accolades from the Washington Economic Development Association, the Enterprise Washington’s Business Institute, the Department of Veteran Affairs, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs, and by the Washington Fire Chiefs. He voted against a bill that would allow labor unions to spend non-members’ bargaining fees on political causes without first getting their permission, sponsored the bill that increased fines to help pay the $849 million Tacoma Narrows bridge, served as chair of the Capital Budget Committee, Vice Chair of the Ways and Means Committee, on the Economic Development, Trade, and Innovation Committee, and on the Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee.

2012: U.S. House of Representatives

After redistricting, the Democratic incumbent Congressman Norm Dicks decided against seeking reelection. Kilmer, two years into his second term as State Senator decided to run for Washington’s new 6th congressional district. His campaign announcement came with endorsements from 37 local representatives and leaders ranging from mayors, to prosecutors, to senators. Kilmer had established his reputation as an effective legislator, one that could reach across the aisle and work with the other side. His largely conservative district favored him for just that, and he ran as the only Democrat on the ticket. His primary challengers included five Republicans and an Independent. Following the “Top Two” primaries (in which Kilmer amassed 53.4% of the vote) Kilmer and Bill Driscoll (R) faced off in the General election.

Kilmer won the 2012 Washington 6th Congressional District by a margin of 18% (59-41).

Derek Kilmer has thus been fundraising since 2011. He has raised $9,808,632, spent $6,283,597, and currently has $3,526,035 on hand. His top contributors come from Microsoft Corp ($125,750), Raytheon Technologies ($62,250), League of Conservation Voters ($60,688), New Democrat Coalition ($60,100), and Boeing Co ($54,970). He has taken $255,750 from Healthcare PACs, $126,350 from Securities and Investment PACs, and $98,500 from Lawyers/Law Firm PACs. He is also in part funded by those associated with McKinsey & Co, his former employer. They have invested over $54,000 into Kilmer’s campaigns.

In 2012, Derek Kilmer raised $1.87 million dollars, his top opponent raised a comparable $1.83 million. In 2014, Kilmer raised $2.04 million, even though his top opponent only raised $25,830. This pattern of overstuffing the war chest is seen in 2016 and 2018 where Kilmer out-fundraises his opponents by millions of dollars. In fact, in 2016, his top opponent only managed to raise $8,580.

During his first term in Congress, Kilmer sponsored or co-sponsored 362 bills of which 21 became law.

  1. H.R.258 – Stolen Valor Act of 2013
  2. H.R.272 – To designate the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense joint outpatient clinic to be constructed in Marina, California, as the “Major General William H. Gourley VA-DOD Outpatient Clinic”.
  3. H.R.324 – To grant the Congressional Gold Medal, collectively, to the First Special Service Force, in recognition of its superior service during World War II.
  4. H.R.360 – To award posthumously a Congressional Gold Medal to Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley to commemorate the lives they lost 50 years ago in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, where these 4 little Black girls’ ultimate sacrifice served as a catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement.
  5. H.R.594 – Paul D. Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Community Assistance, Research and Education Amendments of 2014
  6. H.R.685 – American Fighter Aces Congressional Gold Medal Act
  7. H.R.724 – To amend the Clean Air Act to remove the requirement for dealer certification of new light-duty motor vehicles.
  8. H.R.1036 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 103 Center Street West in Eatonville, Washington, as the “National Park Ranger Margaret Anderson Post Office”.
  9. H.R.1209 – To award a Congressional Gold Medal to the World War II members of the “Doolittle Tokyo Raiders”, for outstanding heroism, valor, skill, and service to the United States in conducting the bombings of Tokyo.
  10. H.R.1344 – Helping Heroes Fly Act
  11. H.R.2203 – To provide for the award of a gold medal on behalf of Congress to Jack Nicklaus, in recognition of his service to the Nation in promoting excellence, good sportsmanship, and philanthropy.
  12. H.R.2591 – To amend certain provisions of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.
  13. H.R.2939 – To award the Congressional Gold Medal to Shimon Peres.
  14. H.R.3043 – Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act of 2014
  15. H.R.3302 – To name the Department of Veterans Affairs medical center in Bay Pines, Florida, as the “C.W. Bill Young Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center”.
  16. H.R.3304 – National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014
  17. H.R.3370 – Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014
  18. H.R.3374 – American Savings Promotion Act
  19. H.R.3979 – Carl Levin and Howard P. “Buck” McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015
  20. H.R.4751 – To make technical corrections to Public Law 110-229 to reflect the renaming of the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial, and for other purposes.
  21. H.R.5739 – No Social Security for Nazis Act

During his second term, Congressman Kilmer sponsored or cosponsored 555 bills, 17 of which became law.

  1. H.R.91 – Veterans Identification Card Act 2015
  2. H.R.313 – Wounded Warriors Federal Leave Act of 2015
  3. H.R.431 – To award a Congressional Gold Medal to the Foot Soldiers who participated in Bloody Sunday, Turnaround Tuesday, or the final Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March in March of 1965, which served as a catalyst for the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
  4. H.R.774 – Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing Enforcement Act of 2015
  5. H.R.812 – Indian Trust Asset Reform Act
  6. H.R.893 – Boys Town Centennial Commemorative Coin Act
  7. H.R.1150 – Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act
  8. H.R.1475 – Korean War Veterans Memorial Wall of Remembrance Act
  9. H.R.2270 – Billy Frank Jr. Tell Your Story Act
  10. H.R.2494 – Eliminate, Neutralize, and Disrupt Wildlife Trafficking Act of 2016
  11. H.R.2726 – Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act
  12. H.R.4336 – An act to amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for the inurnment in Arlington National Cemetery of the cremated remains of certain persons whose service has been determined to be active service.
  13. H.R.4352 – Faster Care for Veterans Act of 2016
  14. H.R.5147 – BABIES Act
  15. H.R.5392 – No Veterans Crisis Line Call Should Go Unanswered Act
  16. H.R.5722 – John F. Kennedy Centennial Commission Act
  17. H.R.6431 – Promoting Travel, Commerce, and National Security Act of 2016

During his third term, Kilmer sponsored or cosponsored a total of 670 bills, 23 of which became law.

  1. H.R.244 – Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017
  2. H.R.255 – Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act
  3. H.R.302 – FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018
  4. H.R.321 – Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers, and Explorers (INSPIRE) Women Act
  5. H.R.374 – To remove the sunset provision of section 203 of Public Law 105-384, and for other purposes.
  6. H.R.624 – Social Security Number Fraud Prevention Act of 2017
  7. H.R.754 – Anwar Sadat Centennial Celebration Act
  8. H.R.931 – Firefighter Cancer Registry Act of 2018
  9. H.R.1235 – Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Act
  10. H.R.1318 – Preventing Maternal Deaths Act of 2018
  11. H.R.1861 – Larry Doby Congressional Gold Medal Act
  12. H.R.2147 – Veterans Treatment Court Improvement Act of 2018
  13. H.R.2345 – National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act of 2018
  14. H.R.2422 – Action for Dental Health Act of 2018
  15. H.R.2519 – The American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act
  16. H.R.3218 – Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017
  17. H.R.3759 – RAISE Family Caregivers Act
  18. H.R.4174 – Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018
  19. H.R.4547 – Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2018
  20. H.R.5317 – To repeal section 2141 of the Revised Statutes to remove the prohibition on certain alcohol manufacturing on Indian lands.
  21. H.R.5504 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 4801 West Van Giesen Street in West Richland, Washington, as the “Sergeant Dietrich Schmieman Post Office Building”.
  22. H.R.6124 – Tribal Social Security Fairness Act of 2018
  23. H.R.6628 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 4301 Northeast 4th Street in Renton, Washington, as the “James Marshall ‘Jimi’ Hendrix Post Office Building”.

So far, Kilmer has sponsored or cosponsored 698 bills in his fourth term, 15 of which have become law.

  1. H.R.150 – Grant Reporting Efficiency and Agreements Transparency Act of 2019
  2. H.R.276 – Recognizing Achievement in Classified School Employees Act
  3. H.R.299 – Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019
  4. H.R.724 – Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act
  5. H.R.748 – CARES Act
  6. H.R.943 – Never Again Education Act
  7. H.R.1327 – Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act
  8. H.R.1396 – Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medal Act
  9. H.R.1526 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 200 Israel Road Southeast in Tumwater, Washington, as the “Eva G. Hewitt Post Office”.
  10. H.R.1865 – Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020
  11. H.R.2151 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 7722 South Main Street in Pine Plains, New York, as the “Senior Chief Petty Officer Shannon M. Kent Post Office”.
  12. H.R.2423 – Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commemorative Coin Act
  13. H.R.2938 – HAVEN Act
  14. H.R.6322 – Student Veteran Coronavirus Response Act of 2020
  15. H.R.7010 – Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020


Derek Kilmer is a career politician through and through. He has consistently been involved in big money races, spent a lot of his time in Congress virtue signaling (changing names of buildings, awarding medals, etc.), while actively helping kill legislation that would improve the quality of life for his constituents. Corporate PACs are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on his races; a testament to his fealty to big business and fiscal conservatism. He began his career propped up by party establishment, and has survived politically by leaning on their support. He has never dipped below a 90% “Agree” rate with Nancy Pelosi, and for the 116th Congress (2019-2020), he has a 100% “Agree” rate.

If “Corporate Politician” had a prototype, Derek Kilmer would be it. He hosts boat parties for big donors, has clear conflicts of interest, spends millions of dollars buying airtime, and flip-flops on issues depending on the political climate (social security, gay marriage, etc.). With progressive challengers rising up from every corner of the country, and the strength of the Democratic Socialists of America in his district, Kilmer’s time, along with other corporate Democrats, may soon be up.


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