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State Rep. Kowalko announces retirement

Delaware General Assembly

State Rep. John Kowalko (D- Newark South) announced Thursday he plans to step down at the end of this legislative session.

Kowalko began representing Delaware’s 25th district, which encompasses parts of Newark, back in 2006.

Over his 16 years in the General Assembly, Kowalko built a reputation as one of the most progressive lawmakers at Leg Hall, fighting passionately for government accountability and working families.

 “I’m especially proud of my work for the progressive movement," he said. "Furthering its ideals, encouraging mentoring and supporting progressive candidates for office all over the state and country. Many of you are in these halls today.”

Kowalko is stepping down after an election in 2020 that saw a wave of progressive lawmakers elected to state office, including a few successful primary challenges against moderate democratic incumbents.

Some of his accomplishments include expanding the Freedom of Information act to cover Delaware’s two largest universities, tightening rules on lobbying for state lawmakers and creating a fund to help manufactured homeowners in legal disputes.

Kowalko has long been a champion of creating more brackets at the top of Delaware’s tax structure, but often faced opposition from other members in the Democratic party.

House Democratic Caucus leadership, Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf (D-Rehoboth Beach), Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst (D-Bear) and Majority Whip Larry Mitchell (D-Elsmere) said the General Assembly is losing a "stalwart legislator" and "champion of working-class Delawareans" in a joint statement.

"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," said the statement. “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."

Kowalko is now the fourth lawmaker to announce their retirement this year, alongside State Representatives David Bentz, Gerald Brady and State Sen. Ernie Lopez.

Roman Battaglia is a corps member withReport for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.