Follow us on Instagram
Try our daily mini crossword
Play our latest news quiz
Download our new app on iOS/Android!

Leaving the House: Four of seven Princeton alumni serving as Congressmen will not seek reelection

A large building with columns and a domed roof, against the background of a blue sky.
Katherine Dailey / The Daily Princetonian

Four of the seven Princeton alumni currently serving in the U.S. House of Representatives announced that they will not seek reelection this year. Reps. Ken Buck ’81 (R-CO), Mike Gallagher ’06 (R-WI), Derek Kilmer ’96 (D-WA), and John Sarbanes ’84 (D-MD) all recently announced that they will leave the House, with Buck and Gallagher making headlines by resigning months before the term ends in January. 

The Daily Princetonian interviewed the four Congressmen on their future plans and the influence of their time at Princeton.


Buck told the ‘Prince’ that he is leaving Congress both because “it is the right time” and to pursue working on reforming how the electorate chooses candidates.

“It’s also very frustrating as a Republican to be surrounded by people who continue to perpetuate the lie that the election was stolen,” Buck said. “It’s difficult to be around people who don't want to solve problems. And the problems are really numerous in our government and in this country. We should be able to work on those and we don’t, and it’s frustrating.”

While he was at Princeton, Buck was a first-team All-Ivy punter he says the biggest lesson he learned from his time at Princeton is that “there is no ceiling.”

“What I took away was that if I focus, if I work hard, if I’m a genuine, good person, I can accomplish what I want to accomplish,” Buck told the ‘Prince.’ “And I think that being surrounded by excellence in every aspect at Princeton showed me what excellence was and what the standard was that I would have to meet.”

A week after speaking with the ‘Prince,’ Buck announced that he would resign in March, rather than finishing out the rest of his term. Representatives for Buck declined a request for follow-up, but Buck recently told CBS News that he can’t do the work he wants to while still in Congress. His last day was March 22.

Gallagher also revealed that he would leave before the end of his term, as he had previously announced in February. He made the first announcement after breaking with the Republicans in an impeachment vote on Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. However, he told the ‘Prince’ that he has long thought this would be his last term after 12 years in office.


“There was no single tipping point. It really just came down to what’s best for my family,” Gallagher said. “We have a young family and we want to grow our family. And this lifestyle is pretty brutal for that. I’m just away from them too much. And then the other major factor was when I ran, I always had eight to 12 years in my term limits.”

Gallagher is not exactly sure what he wants to do after leaving Congress, but he told the ‘Prince’ that he would be interested in teaching in the future, as well as working in the private sector in the national security community.

As a Princeton student, Gallagher was the vice president of Ivy Club and the president of the fraternity Zeta Psi. He was also active in the Marine Corps Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.

He said that he had seen Congress become “more partisan” during his tenure. “Nonetheless, on the Armed Services Committee, Cyberspace Solarium Committee, and on the Select Committee on China, they’re going to work across the aisle and have an impact,” he said, referencing the committees on which he served.

Get the best of ‘the Prince’ delivered straight to your inbox. Subscribe now »

Gallagher chairs the Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party with fellow Princeton alum, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi ’95 (D-IL).

Gallagher’s bipartisan work includes the bill that would ban TikTok or force its parent corporation, the Chinese company ByteDance, to sell it to an American company. He told the ‘Prince’ that he looked forward to helping the law, which passed the House on March 13, through the rest of the legislative process.

However, five hours after the interview, Gallagher announced that he would be leaving Congress on April 19. When asked for follow-up, his representatives pointed to a previously released statement.

The early departures of Buck and Gallagher leave the House Republicans with a slim majority of one vote. Sarbanes and Kilmer, both Democrats, have not announced plans to leave earlier than the end of the term. 

Sarbanes told the ‘Prince’ that he wants to continue being on the “democracy team” after leaving Congress, which includes work like passing the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

“Even as I’m stepping away from Congress, I fully anticipate continuing to be part of that team just wearing a different hat,” he said. “And as we continue to push to get legislation done, I fully expect that all of that continuous conversation and partnership that I did wearing my member of Congress hat, I’ll continue to do wearing whatever other hat I have.”

While a student at Princeton, he was a member of Karate Club, the College Democrats, and Campus Club. Sarbanes, whose father Paul Sarbanes ’54 also served in the House as well as the Senate, said that Princeton instilled in him the importance of service.

“The notion that wherever you are, and whatever you’re doing, you can find some way of serving that can make a difference in the lives of people beyond your own circle was very much something that Princeton reinforced,” Sarbanes told the ‘Prince.’ “And that’s something that I’m carrying now, the idea that I can go find a different way to serve that can make a difference or make an impact that's separate from being a member of Congress.”

Kilmer told the ‘Prince’ in February that “20 years of public service felt about right.”

“There are people leaving Congress saying ‘to heck with this place.’ I’m not one of them. I actually have liked the work,” he noted at the time.

At Princeton, Kilmer served on the Honor Committee and was an officer in class government and the College Democrats. He was also a member of Charter Club. Kilmer is currently teaching a task force for juniors in the School of Public and International Affairs titled “Fixing the People’s House.” 

When asked if the Princeton alumni in Congress knew many of them were retiring, Gallagher responded: “We have not talked about it. I suspect it’s correlation, not causation. I don’t know. There’s no Princeton conspiracy to all retire at the same time. But it is a coincidence. It is interesting.”

Reps. Glenn Ivey ’83 (D-MD), Raja Krishnamoorthi ’95 (D-IL), and Terri Sewell ’86 (D-AL) are all running for reelection. Krishnamoorthi and Sewell won their respective primaries, and Ivey’s Maryland primary will be held May 14, 2024.

Charlie Roth is a senior News writer for the ‘Prince.’

Please send corrections to corrections[at]