Norm Dicks (D)
Some things in politics are eternal... and one of those things is Norm Dicks. He's been in the House for 18 terms, and although he isn't a camera hog or a leadership member, he's become one of the most powerful House Democrats by virtue of membership in one of its most exclusive fraternities: the Appropriations Committee. 36 years seems to have been enough for Dicks, though, and the 71-year-old Dicks today announced his retirement at the end of this term.
Dicks says he and his wife have decided to “change gears and enjoy life at a different pace.”
The 71-year-old lawmaker has earned a reputation as a staunch advocate of the Pentagon and is a defender of the Boeing Co. and its unionized workforce. The company employs thousands of people in his district.
With David Obey's retirement in 2010, Dicks would finally be Appropriations chair if the Dems were in the majority; instead, he's currently the ranking Dem member. I'm not sure if this reflects on his opinion of whether or not the Dems are likely to retake the House and he can grab the gavel, or if it's just a matter of, after half a lifetime in the House, time to relax.
Either way, local Dems are no doubt scrambling to decide who runs to fill this seat, open for the first time in a generation. While we don't have a confirmed Obama percentage on WA-06 under the new lines, it was 57% Obama under the old lines and the boundaries didn't change very much: it still has its population center in the blue-collar city of Tacoma, and also includes other smaller cities on the Olympic Peninsula like Bremerton, Port Angeles, and Aberdeen. All of these places are more downscale than the Seattle area, but still have a strong union presence and tend to lean Democratic. Without much of a GOP bench in this part of the state, look for this to stay in Dem hands, though it's not a slam dunk.
The first successor that comes to mind is state Sen. Derek Kilmer, who represents much of the Kitsap County portion of the district and gets the 'up-and-coming' label attached to him a lot. Other Democratic state Senators in the district are Jim Hargrove and Tim Sheldon, who are OK fits for their more rural districts on the Peninsula but are probably more socially conservative than the district as a whole warrants; they were two of the only three Democratic Senators to vote against gay marriage. (Sheldon in particular has a very DINO-ish reputation, and should be avoided at all costs.) As for Republicans, there's only one GOP state legislator (Jan Angel) anywhere in the district, and Dicks's last four elections have all been against the same weak perennial candidate (Doug Cloud), so this might be a place where a previously unknown rich guy steps in and tries to catch lightning in a bottle... though in a D+5, ancestrally-Dem area, it'll be an uphill fight.