The full announcement is here. It includes recommending maverick Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, as president pro tem, who would preside over Senate floor sessions in the absence of Lt. Gov. Brad Owen. Sen. Rodney Tom of Medina – another Democratic maverick who still could team up with Sheldon to force a new bipartisan leadership model in the Senate – was named chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee.
Senate Republicans plan their line-up decisions tomorrow. Outgoing Republican Leader Mike Hewitt of Walla Walla is stepping down and has suggested a new leadership model is due – and Sen. Tom is considered a possible alternative for Republicans as Senate majority leader, if a still-pending recount in the 17th district gives Tom and Sheldon enough leverage.
Democrats had elected Sen. Ed Murray of Seattle as likely majority leader earlier in the month, replacing retiring Sen. Lisa Brown of Spokane.
UPDATE: Democrats put out a press release from Sheldon that includes this quote:
In other moves, Sen. Karen Fraser of Thurston County is coming back for another term as Senate Democrats’ caucus chair, in charge of organizing the caucus agenda. She also leads caucus meetings.
The new organizational approach offered by Fraser's caucus should bring more perspectives into the mix. Specifically, Democrats are proposing that Republicans have just one seat fewer than Democrats in all committees – including Rules Committee and Ways and Means.
“In terms of the Senate Democratic Caucus, we are trying to organize in a way that balances the perspectives and the districts,” Fraser said. “We’re trying to achieve a balance of responsibility across committees …”
It remains to be seen what Republicans will make of the Democrats’ olive branch. Democrats will have a majority of either 27-22 or 26-23 in January, depending on how a recount turns out in the 17th district, where Republican Sen. Don Benton is leading Democratic challenger Tim Probst by just 82 votes. A recount is planned.
If Benton wins, it gives Tom and Sheldon leverage to create their third-way approach – that would let all Senate members not only elect the majority leader but also appoint committee chairs from both parties.
UPDATE 2: Sen. Hewitt just put out a press release with this statement about the Democrats' moves: