State Rep. Kowalko to retire after current General Assembly

WDEL | by Sean Greene

Newark-area State Representative John Kowalko announced he will not seek reelection and retire following this year’s General Assembly.

Kowalko (D-Newark South) earned selection to the House in 2006, after he won the second of two elections against long-time Republican seatholder Stephanie Ulbrich.

He kickstarted his career in the early 60s, when the machinist became involved with his Union at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.

“I realized there were a lot of people down there, and a lot of people in this world, that are at a disadvantage as far as attaining, acquiring, or keeping the rights they are entitled to as working people.”

Kowalko would go on to work at the Delaware City Refinery, before getting talked into running for office.

Following the 2004 loss to Ulbrich, he successfully won the rematch two years later, and his first major bill became a hallmark of his time in office, focusing on government process, in this case creating a 1-year waiting period for outgoing legislators to become lobbyists.

“It was monumental that we were keeping an eye on the public interest by saying that if you built a program as a sitting legislator to then go and benefit from that by becoming a lobbyist or one of those creations you might have made as a legislator, it would be an unfair advantage.”

On the House floor Thursday, Kowalko spoke about his other major focus areas.

“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.

At the same time, Kowalko, one of the top Progressives in Delaware, helped pave the path for others to follow him into the legislature. Meaning at 77 years old, it was a good chance to step aside.

“I feel like it would be a good time to hopefully pass the baton to someone who is as progressive, or more progressive than me. I think part of that decision was that we had so many progressive-minded, intended, and dedicated people elected to Leg Hall in both chambers.”

Kowalko said he doesn’t plan to quietly end his final five months in Dover, with some major goals still in play before June 30.

“The banning of carcinogenic chemicals in childrensware, and also some needed reform in government. I hope to be a prime sponsor in a bill creating an Inspector General’s office.”

Kowalko said he hopes to remain a voice in the progressive community after he retires, but is also excited to spend more time with his grandchildren, two of whom recently moved from Florida to Eastern Pennsylvania.

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