Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland, a rising progressive Democratic star, became the latest rumored candidate to opt out of the race to replace retiring US Representative Norm Dicks in Washington's 6th Congressional District, leaving state Senator Derek Kilmer (D-Gig Harbor) as the lone declared Democrat and overwhelming frontrunner.

Following Dicks' surprise announcement, some expected a political dogfight for a seat that last came open back in 1976, but Kilmer has quickly cleared the field. In addition to Strickland, other Democrats who have declined to run include state Senator Jim Hargrove, state Representative Christine Rolfes, state Auditor Brian Sonntag, Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy, Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist, and Kitsap County Commissioner Josh Brown.

Republicans were really hot on the prospects of state Representative Jan Angel against Kilmer, but she too has opted out. The two declared Republicans include Gig Harbor attorney Doug Cloud, and some guy named Jesse Young, who describes himself as "devoted to his faith in Christ," yet mixes religions a bit by claiming to have "moved mountains." Cloud has served as Dicks' biennial quixotic challenger since 2004, and Young declared for the seat long before the unbeatable Dicks announced his surprise retirement. That's really all you need to know about the strength of the Republican field.

So what's Kilmer's secret? Kilmer can be a charming guy and all that, as well as a savvy politician. But most impressive has been his quick start on the fundraising front. In the two weeks since announcing, Kilmer has already raised $120,000 on Act Blue alone, not to mention the tens of thousands of dollars he's surely hauled in by check.

That's impressive by any measure. And while Kilmer's fundraising prowess can't be the only thing warding off serious challengers, it sure as hell doesn't hurt.