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New Democrat Coalition Elects Derek Kilmer as New Chairman

Sewell, Peters, Kuster and DelBene will be vice chairs of pro-business caucus

Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., is the new chair of the New Democrat Coalition. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., is the new chair of the New Democrat Coalition. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The New Democrat Coalition on Friday elected Washington Rep. Derek Kilmer to chair the centrist, pro-business caucus in the 116th Congress. 

Kilmer, who has served as a vice chair of the coalition, will succeed Connecticut Rep. Jim Himes

The New Democrats also elected four vice chairs for the 116th Congress: Reps. Terri Sewell of Alabama, Scott Peters of California, Ann McLane Kuster of New Hampshire and Suzan DelBene of Washington.

The coalition welcomed 30 incoming freshmen to their ranks, which is now at 91 members. 

“We have just an amazing diverse group that includes everything from national security experts and military veterans to techies and entrepreneurs to an NFL lineman now. And each one of them brings amazing talent and capabilities into this coalition and into this Congress,” Kilmer said in an interview. 

New Democrats are a group that try to address old problems through a new lens, he said. As an example, he said they look at economic issues with a mind toward “not just focusing on redistribution of the pie but actually trying to go the pie and empowering people to navigate economic change, not be victims of it.”

Policy proposals the coalition’s task forces have developed on issues such as infrastructure and housing affordability will be matters the group looks to prioritize in the coming Congress as well, Kilmer said, suggesting there might be a path to moving legislation in those areas to the president’s desk in this era of divided government.

The coalition’s political arm, NewDemPAC, is likely to play a key role in the 2020 election cycle as most of their members will be among those Republicans are most likely to target. 

“One of the less told stories of this last election cycle is that most of the seats that flipped are now people who are members of this coalition,” Kilmer said. “Making sure that we’re providing adequate resources to succeed in this place, to deliver for their constituents is going to be a high priority.”

Himes, who will remain involved in the coalition’s leadership as a chair emeritus, said New Democrats will “be a bigger, different, more important coalition in the majority,” and he is excited to see what they can do.

“We expect to play big on both policy and politics,” he said.

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