Today's Winner is State Sen. Ed Murray (Sorta)
As expected, and (according to sources) without much drama, Seattle state Sen. Ed Murray (D-43, Capitol Hill), was elected Senate Majority Leader by the Democratic caucus this afternoon. (No one else went for the spot).
Murray, who was first appointed to the state house in 1995 and then elected in 1996, will replace retiring state Sen. Lisa Brown (D-3, Spokane) as Senate Majority Leader.
Murray, of course, has been a gay rights champion in the legislature, ushering through a landmark gay anti-discrimination bill in 2006, a series of domestic partnership bills between 2007 and 2009, and finally this year's historic gay marriage bill.
Murray is only "sorta" today's winner because it's still not clear how much of a majority he'll actually have.
Far from being a single-issue activist, though, Murray cut his teeth in the house as chair of the transportation committee, where he was a preeminent wonk on issues such as 520 and transportation funding.
Until passing gay marriage, the highlight of Murray's resume was the passage of major transportation packages in the 2003 and 2005; the latter, a nine-and-a-half-cent gas tax, withstood a repeal effort instigated on right-wing radio.
Murray, who was elected to the senate in 2006, is only "sorta" today's winner because it's still not clear how much of a majority he'll actually have. The state senate race in Vancouver between Republican incumbent Sen. Don Benton (R-17) and Democratic challenger state Rep. Tim Probst (D-17) is still in the balance.
If Benton holds on to his seat, the Democrats' 26-23 majority will only mean nominal control because two members of the Democratic caucus, Sens. Tim Sheldon (D-35, Potlach) and Rodney Tom (D-48, Bellevue), typically vote with the Republicans. Last session, for example, Sheldon and Tom helped the Republicans seize control of the floor to pass the GOP budget.
In a statement this afternoon, Murray said:
“We have work to do in Olympia – prioritizing education, creating jobs for the middle class, and ensuring Washingtonians have the health care they need. And one of our challenges in a closely divided chamber is to ensure that the Senate is able to fulfill its obligation to govern the state, in tandem with Gov.-elect Jay Inslee and the House. These are not simple challenges, but they are solvable. We can find solutions that work for all of Washington."
Today's Loser is Tim Probst.
The latest vote count is in from Vancouver and Probst, who had been winning by 16 votes after the last count, is now losing by 65 to Benton. Obviously, the race is headed for a recount.