Jim McDermott at retirement press conference
Jim McDermott at retirement press conference

Wash­ing­ton’s cur­rent longest-serv­ing mem­ber of Con­gress has decid­ed to retire after near­ly three decades of ser­vice to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Con­gress­man Jim McDer­mott, sev­en­ty-nine, announced at a press con­fer­ence today in Seat­tle that he won’t seek reelec­tion in 2016, set­ting the stage for what will undoubt­ed­ly be a crowd­ed Top Two elec­tion to suc­ceed him next August. McDer­mott has rep­re­sent­ed Wash­ing­ton’s most lib­er­al con­gres­sion­al dis­trict, the 7th, since 1988. He has won reelec­tion in the past with 80% of the vote or more.

“This was not an easy deci­sion, because I don’t like to quit… But there comes a time when you say to your­self, enough,” McDer­mott told reporters gath­ered for his announce­ment. He took ques­tions for more than a half hour, reflect­ing on his lega­cy, accom­plish­ments, pos­si­ble suc­ces­sor, and ser­vice to the country.

McDer­mott said that he told his fam­i­ly over the Christ­mas hol­i­day break that he’d decid­ed not to run again, explain­ing that he had real­ized there were oth­er things he want­ed to do in his life. He recount­ed how col­leagues George Miller and Norm Dicks had reached to sim­i­lar con­clu­sions in past cycles, choos­ing to hand off the baton off to some­one new. McDer­mott fig­ures it’s his time to do that now.

He says he hopes his suc­ces­sor will be a pro­gres­sive, and prefer­ably some­one who can work effec­tive­ly with oth­er mem­bers of Con­gress, regard­less of par­ty. McDer­mott not­ed he does­n’t get hung up on labels. Trust is what matters.

“One of the prob­lems in pol­i­tics right now is the issue of trust,” he said, going on to lament, “There’s so lit­tle trust left in the Con­gress right now.”

State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Brady Walkin­shaw had already announced he would run for McDer­mot­t’s seat, but now he will almost cer­tain­ly have com­pe­ti­tion, as McDer­mot­t’s deci­sion to retire will almost cer­tain­ly prompt a num­ber of state law­mak­ers, coun­ty coun­cilmem­bers, city coun­cilmem­bers, and oth­ers to launch explorato­ry bids for Con­gress. A posi­tion like U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive in a dis­trict like Wash­ing­ton’s 7th just does­n’t open up very often.

Trib­utes to McDer­mott began to pour in almost immediately.

“For more than forty years, Jim McDer­mott has worked tire­less­ly on behalf of the peo­ple of Wash­ing­ton State,” said Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

“As a state leg­is­la­tor, he helped pass laws that offered health­care to unem­ployed and low-income Wash­ing­to­ni­ans, the first such pro­gram in the nation. In the Unit­ed States Con­gress, he con­tin­ued to be a much-need­ed voice for his most vul­ner­a­ble con­stituents. Across Amer­i­ca, you’ll find fam­i­lies that are bet­ter off because Jim McDer­mott was fight­ing for them. I’m grate­ful for Jim’s ser­vice, and Michelle and I wish him all the best in what­ev­er the future holds. ”

“Jim has been a bold and pro­gres­sive voice through­out his four decades of ser­vice in Con­gress,” said Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee. “He has capa­bly rep­re­sent­ed Seat­tle on a long list of impor­tant issues includ­ing health care reform and his very vocal oppo­si­tion to the Iraq War. His sto­ried career is one Seat­tle will recall for years to come.”

“Con­gress­man Jim McDer­mott has been Seat­tle’s coura­geous, pro­gres­sive voice in Con­gress for over 25 years,” said Jax­on Ravens, Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Chair. “He was and is a hero for many of us, fight­ing for health care to be a right for every­one and against the unjust war in Iraq.”

“A psy­chi­a­trist, McDer­mott brought much-need­ed exper­tise to the con­ver­sa­tion on men­tal health pol­i­cy in Con­gress. Thank you, Con­gress­man McDer­mott, for your decades of lead­er­ship and ser­vice to our city and state.”

“Jim McDer­mott has brought total integri­ty and ded­i­ca­tion to this insti­tu­tion,” said McDer­mot­t’s col­league Sander Levin of Michi­gan. “For him, pub­lic ser­vice has meant serv­ing the pub­lic inter­est, not self-inter­est. He used his med­ical back­ground to help shape qual­i­ty health care for all, with a par­tic­u­lar focus on health care for women and chil­dren. He also has been a cham­pi­on for a host of inter­na­tion­al issues, help­ing to forge AGOA, a trade pro­gram between the U.S. and African nations. I will be among many who will miss his capac­i­ty for strong per­son­al friendship.”

“From the begin­ning of this cam­paign, I made it clear that I have an enor­mous respect for Con­gress­man Jim McDermott’s pro­gres­sive val­ues and long his­to­ry of pub­lic ser­vice,” said State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Brady Walkinshaw.

“His lead­er­ship on efforts includ­ing the cre­ation of our State’s Pub­lic Dis­clo­sure Com­mis­sion, our State’s basic health plan, his stead­fast devo­tion for peace, and his recent role in improv­ing fos­ter care ser­vices in our coun­try leaves a remark­able lega­cy. Today I under­score those state­ments and thank Rep­re­sen­ta­tive McDer­mott for his decades of ser­vice to the peo­ple of Seat­tle and our region.”

“He is leav­ing a proud lega­cy that I hope to build upon. He has been a con­sis­tent voice for work­ing fam­i­lies and labor, a voice for equi­table access to health­care, and a voice for peo­ple who don’t yet have a seat at the table. Look­ing ahead, the Congressman’s thought­ful remarks today on the impor­tance of bipar­ti­san work in this year’s Con­gres­sion­al ses­sion around men­tal health are so time­ly and impor­tant to our region. Jim McDer­mott has ably served our state and region in an extra­or­di­nary way. Thank you Jim, for all you have done.”

“Jim McDer­mott has been bring­ing Wash­ing­ton State val­ues to Wash­ing­ton, D.C., since 1989,” said King Coun­ty Exec­u­tive Dow Constantine.

“He has been a cham­pi­on of pre­serv­ing the social safe­ty net, pro­tect­ing the envi­ron­ment, and ensur­ing that every­one in the nation and abroad is treat­ed fair­ly and with respect. He has bucked the cyn­i­cism of Con­gress and con­front­ed our nation’s chal­lenge with can­dor and resolve.”

“Con­gress­man McDer­mot­t’s entire career has been ded­i­cat­ed to pub­lic ser­vice — not just in Con­gress, but in the Unit­ed States Navy, as a doc­tor, and as a Wash­ing­ton State leg­is­la­tor. His com­mit­ment to the well-being of our com­mu­ni­ty, and of all the peo­ple of the nation and world, is unmatched.”

“Con­gress­man McDer­mott has been a friend and part­ner to King Coun­ty for many years, and I extend my grat­i­tude for his decades of excep­tion­al service.”

This post will be updat­ed as more reac­tion is received.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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2 replies on “U.S. Representative Jim McDermott announces his retirement from Congress”

  1. McDer­mott defeat­ed sit­ting Demo­c­ra­t­ic Gov­er­nor Dix­ie Lee Ray in 1980. Of course, that was a bad year for Democ­rats and McDer­mott lost to John Spell­man. The last Demo­c­rat in Wash­ing­ton to lose a gov­er­nor’s race.

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