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Hopefuls line up for chance to succeed Dicks in 6th District

Rep. Norm Dicks addresses the audience at last fall
Rep. Norm Dicks addresses the audience at last fall's Olympic College Foundation annual luncheon. The longtime congressman announced his retirement last week.
— image credit: File Photo

That’s the prevailing sentiment following U.S. Rep Norm Dicks’ announcement on March 2 that he would not seek reelection this fall.

“Those are some really, really big shoes to fill,” said Port Orchard City Councilman John Clauson. “He was a very big asset for our community and Port Orchard.”

The 71-year-old congressman from Bremerton has served 18 consecutive terms for Washington State’s 6th District, beginning in 1977.

A graduate of the University of Washington Law School, Dicks served as a staff member for Sen. Warren G. Magnuson beginning in 1968.

His congressional career has included developing federal assistance for forest workers in timber communities, increasing environmental protection for Puget Sound estuaries and commitment to maintaining a U.S. Navy base in Kitsap County.

Dicks, the ranking Democrat on the powerful House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, has often used his tenure and sway to bring federal funds to Washington, Sen. Patty Murray said in a statement.

“He is our state’s quarterback here in Congress, and I can’t imagine our delegation without him,” she said.

Clauson, who called himself a “friend of Dicks,” said even on a microlevel, the Congressman has been instrumental in securing funding for local projects. Port Orchard City Hall couldn’t have been built without Dicks’ help, he said.

“About 12 years ago he helped secure funding to construct new city hall,” he said. “There wasn’t any grant money, but the Congressman was able to get us connected with a very low interest federal loan contract. If it wasn’t for the Congressman, we wouldn’t have been able to construct city hall when we did.”

As the newly anointed executive director of Kitsap Transit, Clauson also described Dicks’ commitment to public transportation.

Van pools, new fleets, refurbishing maintenance and a state of the art transportation center were all made possible through the help of the Congressman.

“He’s been a friend of public transportation for as long as I can remember,” he said.

Clauson didn’t know the the longterm Congressman had plans to retire.

“I’m kind of surprised he decided not to run again,” he said.

Port Orchard Mayor Tim Matthes was also surprised at the Congressman’s decision to step down.

“It’s a shocker,” he said. “I though he would continue another two years and move on to other projects.”

Vacancy likely to draw a crowd

The position left vacant by the congressman should draw quite a crowd of individuals vying for a seat on Capitol Hill, Matthes said.

Port Orchard businessman Bob Sauerwein has declared his intention to run as a Republican. State Senator Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, also plans to throw his hat into the ring.

“My job is creating jobs,” Kilmer said in a press release to announce his campaign on Monday.

“When I’m not in Olympia, my job is to work with businesses in Pierce County to help them grow and thrive. We could use more folks in Washington who are focused on creating more jobs with better pay, and that’s what I’ll do in the U.S. house of representatives.”

Kilmer admitted that if he did win Dicks’ seat, he’d have quite a record of help for Washington State to follow up.

“Norm Dicks may be the best Congressman in the history of Washington State,” he said. “No one can fill his shoes, but I’ll work to continue his legacy of fighting for jobs and standing up for the little guy.”

On Wednesday, Kilmer announced a slew of local politicians who already endorsed his campaign, including city council members Clauson, Fred Chang, Robert Putaansuu, Carolyn Powers and former Mayor Lary Coppola.

State legislator Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard said her main priority was her work on the state budget, but that when the legislative session was over, she would take some time to talk a possible run over with her family.

“Right now I’m in Olympia to get the budget done, and I will stay focused on that,” she said. “I’m not making any decisions until I’m done with my work.”

Other local politicians, such as Kitsap County Commissioner Josh Brown and City of Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland have also been rumored to look at filling Dicks’ seat.

Regardless of who ends up winning, Matthes said, loosing Dicks, a senior member of Congress, could be hard on a community that has grown used to some seniority.

“He’s somebody who has been there for long,” he said. “You almost take him for granted.”

 

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