I am hearing that Representative John Kowalko has just announced that he will not be seeking reelection and will retire after his term ends in November.
This news is not unexpected, but at the same time is surprising. He was the anchor of the left in the General Assembly for years, planting a flag pole for progressives so as to prevent the Overton Window of Politics, and the Democratic Party, from shifting too far to the center or right. He is and was a champion for fair and progressive taxation and for the worker and consumer.
He has been joined now by several progressives in the outspoken Kowalko mold – Eric Morrison springs immediately to mind – and I believe he now knew it was safe to retire.
Thank you, John, for all you have done for all of us and Happy Retirement!
Upon Thursday’s announcement that Rep. John Kowalko will retire at the end of this term, House Democratic Caucus leadership – Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst and Majority Whip Larry Mitchell – issued the following joint statement:
“John Kowalko has been a stalwart legislator who has faithfully served his community and his state for the past 16 years. He has been a champion of working-class Delawareans, the marginalized and the underprivileged during his time in office. We could always count on John to constantly challenge the status quo in the General Assembly, asking hard questions and pushing goals previously thought to be out of reach into focus.
“It wasn’t always a fun process – John’s passion could sometimes lead to some very heated conversations – but we all know that it came from a position of wanting the best for every resident in our state, and that in turn made us think more critically about whether our actions were right.
“Rep. Kowalko’s departure leaves a sizable hole in our caucus, in the House and in the General Assembly, and it will be incredibly difficult to fill that void. Delaware is losing a fierce and fearless advocate, but we are grateful to have served alongside him, from the time all four of us were in the minority together, through to today. We will miss him terribly and enjoy these last few months and inevitable sparring matches this spring.”
Below is a statement Rep. Kowalko read on the House floor today:
“I have had the privilege and pleasure of serving as a State Representative for almost 16 years.
“As you all might know, this is my second career. For 37 years, I was a machinist. I was a proud union member during that time, serving as a union official and advocate. I worked at the Delaware City refinery for 25 years serving as union steward and General Foreman. These experiences gave me a solid foundation for Rules of Order and their importance, the power of solidarity, and a profound respect for the working men and women and their families.
“I have held these values which are so dear to me throughout my career as a legislator. I am proud of my continuous and resolute support for not only organized labor but for all working people and their families, and for all of Delaware’s citizens. My bills, and the bills I put my name on support ordinary people, working people, parents, children, the homeless, and Delaware’s small business community. I have always supported government transparency, good government, and open government. I have always supported and sponsored bills improving healthcare, voting rights, gender equity, and the environment.
“I have met some amazing people through the years and have been honored by the rust people placed in me, ranging from neighbors on my street to being featured in French news media regarding transparency and corporate giveaways. I was privileged to be one of four U.S. legislators invited to England, at the British government’s expense, for a series of discussions with government officials that included visits to offshore wind sites and universities that had training programs for engineers and craftsmen dedicated to offshore wind technology. I was humbled and honored to share a mutually respected friendship with former Governor Russell Peterson, truly one of the most accomplished and environmental advocates in Delaware. Being a legislator has been awe-inspiring and humbling and I’m proud of the fact that I have remained a full-time legislator, never using my position in Dover to augment my career and income.
“When I was first elected Democrats were in the basement. We were a distinct minority party. I have been there and I am proud that Democrats hold a significant majority today. I was a founding member of PDD (Progressive Dems for Democrats) and I am especially proud of my work for the progressive movement, furthering its ideals, and encouraging, mentoring, and supporting progressive candidates for offices all over the state and country. Many of you are in these halls with me today.
“I am announcing my retirement at the end of this term. There is a time for everyone to pass the baton and this term is my time. I am counting on my fellow progressives to continue my efforts.
“I will work hard for my constituents for these last nine months and in November I will pass my position as the 25th district representative over to a new, and hopefully just as progressive person.