Dan Kildee, dean of Michigan’s U.S. House delegation, won’t run for reelection in 2024

Retirement leaves open a key seat made more competitive with redistricting

By: - November 16, 2023 1:53 pm

Rep. Dan Kildee at the Flint drive-in rally for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden with former President Barack Obama, Oct. 31, 2020 | Andrew Roth

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint), the dean of Michigan’s U.S. House delegation, announced on Thursday that he will not run for reelection in 2024. 

Kildee, 65, said a cancer diagnosis this year caused him to reassess his career plans. 

“I was first elected to public office when I was 18 years old,” Kildee said through a statement. “Nearly five decades later, I continue to love public service and the work I do every day. For most of this year, I saw myself continuing to serve and was actively planning another campaign. But there are times in all our lives that make you reassess your own future and path. For me, being diagnosed with cancer earlier this year was one of those moments. Thankfully, earlier this year I had successful surgery and I’m cancer-free.”

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“But after spending time with my wife, children and grandchildren and contemplating our future, the time has come for me to step back from public office,” he added. “Running for office, ultimately, is a personal decision first. And this was not an easy decision to make. But I know it’s the right one for me and for my family.”

Kildee’s retirement from the 8th Congressional District including Genesee, Bay and Saginaw counties and portions of Midland County, leaves open a seat made more competitive during the last redistricting process. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report has moved the seat from “leans Democratic” to a “tossup.”

Republicans had targeted the newly drawn seat in 2022, but Kildee easily defeated Paul Junge of Fenton, who previously worked under the Trump administration in U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, as well as a prosecutor, as a TV news anchor and with his family’s maintenance business. 

A number of candidates could line up to run in 2024 from both parties. Republican Martin Blank, a surgeon, has already declared. Other Republicans who could run are Junge, former House Speaker Tom Leonard and state Rep. Bill G. Schuette (R-Midland).

On the Democratic side, potential candidates could include former Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint), Flint Mayor Sheldon Neely, state Sen. Kristen McDonald Rivet (D-Bay City), former state Rep. Pam Farris (D-Clio) and state Sen. John Cherry (D-Flint).

Still, Kildee expressed confidence over Dems holding the seat next year.

“I am confident that Michigan will re-elect President Biden, entrust Democrats with legislative majorities and elect a Democrat to serve Michigan’s Eighth District after I retire from Congress,” Kildee said. “And while my name will not be on the ballot next November, I will be doing everything I can to help elect common sense, principled and results-oriented leaders.”

In a 2020 interview with the Michigan Advance, Kildee recalled having only been in Congress for a few years when news of the Flint water crisis broke.

“That was one of those moments where I knew why I was there. I knew exactly why I was in Congress,” Kildee said. “I had to go to bat for my hometown because they only had one member of Congress, and I had to persuade a whole bunch of people to help me out with Flint.”

The former Genesee County treasurer is the nephew of longtime former U.S. Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Flint), whom he succeeded in 2013. Dan Kildee was elected to the Flint County Board of Education at age 18. Many Democrats expected him to run for governor in 2018 when then-Gov. Rick Snyder was term-limited, but Kildee ultimately decided to run for another term in Congress.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) smiles after receiving the gavel from Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) following her election as the next Speaker of the House during the first session of the 116th Congress at the U.S. Capitol, Jan. 3, 2019 | Win McNamee, Getty Images

As a whip, Kildee has served as a leader in the House Democratic caucus and has been a close ally of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). He is the co-chair of the House Democratic Steering Committee. 

Pelosi told the Advance in 2020 that Kildee “has proudly carried on his family’s long legacy of service, becoming a tremendous champion for the people of Flint and all Michiganders” as part of leadership.

“As a powerful member of the Ways and Means Committee, his persistent, dissatisfied leadership has delivered critical resources to strengthen and develop his community and ensure that our budget remains a reflection of our nation’s values,” Pelosi said. “Congressman Kildee’s bold vision and expert guidance as chief deputy whip has been invaluable to House Democrats as we work to advance progress that make a difference in the lives of hard-working families in Michigan and across the country.”

Kildee said in his statement that while he’s “stepping back from elected office at the end of my term, I’m most definitely not retiring. I’m looking forward to a new chapter continuing to serve Flint and mid-Michigan, just outside of elected office.”

A host of Michigan elected officials praised Kildee on Thursday.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said through a statement that “no one fights harder for his constituents than Dan Kildee.

“Congressman Kildee knows the Bay region like the back of his Michigan mitten, and I am so grateful for our productive partnership,” Whitmer said. “I am grateful for our collaboration to bring progress to areas of Michigan that too many left behind. We brought good-paying, middle-class manufacturing jobs back to Flint, worked to lower the cost of prescription drugs with President Biden, and delivered on the issues that make a real difference in people’s lives.”   

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint) speaks to voters with now-Gov. Gretchen Whitmer during a campaign stop on her Fix The Damn Roads bus tour of the state on Oct. 30, 2018 | Andrew Roth

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly) called Kildee’s retirement “a huge loss for Congress, for Michigan, and for me personally. 

“The center of his work is and always has been his hometown of Flint, for which he has fiercely advocated especially in the darkest hour of the Flint water crisis,” Slotkin said. “While I’m thankful I have another year to work with him, and thrilled that he is moving on to his next chapter, this departure stings.”

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Ann Arbor) said that Kildee “will be missed. 

“His deep knowledge of many issues and his concern for others has made a difference in countless lives, and his years of service have benefited our country in many ways,” Dingell said. 

Advance Editor Susan J. Demas contributed to this story.


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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman writes about Southeast Michigan, history and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on Black life in Detroit.