7th Congressional District Rep. Jim McDermott. Photo courtesy of Congressional Pictorial Directory
7th Congressional District Rep. Jim McDermott. Photo courtesy of Congressional Pictorial Directory
One of the most tenured figures in Washington state politics has decided his current term will be his last.

On Monday, Jan. 4, Rep. Jim McDermott announced he will not seek reelection for the 7th Congressional District seat he has held since 1988, opening the door for what promises to be one of the most hotly contested local political races in recent memory.

“The support and trust symbolized by the voters’ judgment is the highest honor they could have bestowed upon me,” McDermott said during a press conference Monday, “and I will retire from the House forever humbled and grateful for my constituents’ unwavering embrace.”

McDermott said he was proud of what he had accomplished in his tenure in Congress, specifically mentioning health-care reform, major reform of the foster-care system, a program to provide housing for needy AIDS patients and laying the foundation for what would later become Sound Transit.

“I am proud of what we have been able to do together for Seattle and the state of Washington,” he said. “Not surprisingly, not everything has worked out as I had hoped, but, on balance, I will leave the Congress with few regrets.”


The ‘next phase’

As of press time, two candidates had declared their intentions to seek the seat, a field that was expected to grow in the days to come.

Last month, 43rd District Rep. Brady Walkinshaw became the first then-challenger to McDermott.

Walkinshaw said he wasn’t expecting the announcement on Monday and that McDermott leaves behind, “one of the strongest legacies that we’ve seen in Washington politics in a long time. The work that the Congressman has done has been very deeply and profoundly felt in this region.”

In particular, Walkinshaw noted McDermott’s work on mental health legislation, and advocacy for children in foster care as issues he would hope to continue to champion in Congress. 

Despite the sudden change in the field, Walkinshaw said he’s running for the same reasons he did when he launched his campaign, the belief that this region is at an “incredibly exciting” moment and a time of incredible change in which it is ready for progressive leadership.

From work on the minimum wage, to drug policy and looking at how to build a transit system, Walkinshaw said the region is at a time “where we’ve never needed more partnership.”

With a vigorous race ahead, Walkinshaw said he’s ready for the challenge.

“We’re excited about this next phase of the campaign,” he said.


Changing a country

Edmonds businessman and Greenwood resident Jeff Stilwell announced his candidacy on Monday, saying he was tired of people complaining that government doesn’t work and that “it’s time to dream big again.”

Stilwell said one of his biggest priorities would be to end the gender wage gap — through piecemeal legislation by raising the federal minimum and tipped wages, mandating maternity leave and reducing the cost of health care — and also wants to nationally fund education from pre-K through the first two years of college.

He’s also a proponent of building a space elevator — a ribbon of carbon stretching upward from the Pacific Ocean — and to establish a global Wi-Fi system.

Stilwell cited his longtime public service in the Edmonds arts community and his work alongside his wife in taking the Edmonds Art Walk from something “pathetically, embarrassingly small” when they launched it 14 years ago, into one of the largest, most successful events of its kind in the Pacific Northwest.

“If you can change a community, you can change a country,” he said. “It just takes time.”

Stilwell said it is paramount to be able to listen and that he would “burn the midnight oil” working across the aisle to find solutions.

“I have not given up on the GOP,” he said, citing Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and New Mexico Susana Martinez as examples of the new rising voices of the Republican Party.

Stilwell will host a meet and greet at his business — MaJe Gallery (409 Main St.) in Edmonds on Jan. 14, from 7 to 8 p.m.


Unfinished business

In the remainder of his term, McDermott said he’s looking forward to working on “many critical unfinished issues before us,” including a mental health bill in tandem with Republican Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania.

“I have every confidence that when I depart Washington, D.C., at the conclusion of the 114th Congress, Washington’s 7th will be welcoming an excellent, new representative,” he said, “because the voters of the 7th are smart and thoughtful and careful.”

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