Hilary Franz ends gubernatorial bid, will run for Congress instead


Washington Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz has ended her bid for governor and instead intends to run for Congress in 2024.

The 53-year-old Democrat announced her candidacy Friday to represent Washington’s 6th Congressional District. She has been endorsed by the current incumbent, U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., who said Thursday that he would not seek re-election next year.

In a campaign video, Franz said her priorities are addressing climate change, abortion rights, controlling inflation, gun violence and “threats to democracy.”

Franz, a conservation attorney, has served as Washington’s public lands chief overseeing the Department of Natural Resources. She was initially elected in 2016 and re-elected in 2020. She had also served a prior term on the Bainbridge Island city council and on regional conservation and land management boards.

In May, Franz announced a gubernatorial bid to succeed Gov. Jay Inslee, who intends to leave office when his third term ends after 2024. Franz has faced primary competition from two prominent fellow Democrats, state Sen. Mark Mullet and state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who has been endorsed by Inslee and Kilmer.

Kilmer, 49, from Gig Harbor, is a former state legislator who was first elected to Congress in 2013. In a submission to The Seattle Times, Kilmer said Thursday he will leave “the marble walls of Congress” after his current two-year term expires in 14 months.

Despite the dysfunction that has unfolded in the House of Representatives, currently under Republican leadership, Kilmer — viewed as a moderate — expressed hope that “things will indeed get better” for Congress and the nation.

In a statement endorsing Franz, Kilmer called her “a bold, strategic leader with a track record of bringing people together from across the state and from different backgrounds to find solutions in our shared problems.”

“In a time when catastrophic climate events are happening with more frequency, our nation needs Hilary’s experience in Congress, and Washington needs her leadership,” he said.

Franz’s earlier voter registration listed a residence in Seattle, but her announcement says she lives in Grays Harbor County and that she raised her three sons in Kitsap County. The sprawling 6th Congressional District incorporates those counties along with the Olympic Peninsula. Candidates for congressional seats aren’t required to live within the boundaries of the district.