Stateside Podcast: Congressman Dan Kildee on retirement
After a decade in Congress, Representative Dan Kildee has announced that he will not be seeking reelection in 2024. He came on Stateside to discuss his retirement and what’s to come for him and his district.
Congressman Dan Kildee’s decision to retire
Kildee’s retirement announcement comes on the heels of a medical issue. Earlier this year, he underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his tonsil.
“I was diagnosed with cancer early in the year, and had a pretty serious surgery. During that process of recovery, without a voice, I was able to think a lot,” Kildee said. “It was just obvious to me that there's no good time to leave ever, but that means there's never a wrong time to leave.”
After conversations with his wife, Kildee decided it’s time for him to find alternative ways for him to give back to his state.
“What I've learned over time is if you wait for the universe to tell you that it's time to leave Congress, you're not going to leave Congress,” Kildee said.
In his time in the U.S. House of Representatives, Kildee has watched some of his colleagues stay in their role to the point that their ability to contribute is “somewhat diminished.” The time spent away from his family also has become an “increasingly difficult” tradeoff.
Today’s political climate
Kildee has previously detailed how the vitriolic atmosphere of American politics has impacted his mental health. He discussed the lasting negative effects of the attacks on the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
“January 6th doesn't stand alone as an event unseparated from the current political environment that we are in: the coarsening of political speech, the anger, the obsessive belief and conspiracy theories with no foundation.”
Kildee noted his disappointment and frustration in watching an institution go from being “respected by many” to one that displays “the venom that has invaded political speech.”
Kildee said that he is confident that Democrats will be the majority party in the House after the 2024 elections. He also noted the challenges of being in the minority party this term — a position that he insisted wasn’t always so difficult to be in. When he first came into Congress, he said that “it was a different Republican Party that was in the majority.” That Republican Party, he remarked, was much easier to work with than those in the current makeup.
“In fact, I did work with them,” Kildee said. “We got the help for Flint – the Flint aid package through the House when the Republicans were in the majority. And here I am, a Democratic member from a Democratic-leaning community, and I was able to work with Republicans on the other side to get really important help for my hometown. The environment in Washington right now does not allow that conversation to take place.”
Kildee expressed concerns of “people who are sort of moved [to run for office] by a single issue or the heat of the moment or their own anger.” He doesn’t take issue with the loss of some multigenerational political families’ presence in Congress, including his own family’s, but noted that an understanding of the history of American politics is vital for Congressional newcomers.
Looking ahead to next year’s elections, he believes his district will be in good hands.
“I know this district pretty well. It is a district that is less consumed by political ideology as it is to a commitment to solve problems, to just use common sense, to not get too swept up in the heat of the moment, and just keep your head down, and do work that's good for the people back home,” Kildee said. “That's not a particularly partisan way to operate.”
Kildee hopes to continue to play an active role in his community once he retires.
“My inclination is to continue to use my voice as an active citizen, with maybe a slightly bigger platform because of my history, but also find meaningful work that is really focused on creating a more just society using the tools outside of government,” Kildee said.
- Representative Dan Kildee, Michigan's 8th Congressional District