OLYMPIA State Sen. Sharon Nelson has a tough job this coming session: proving that her caucus still has clout.
Nelson, 62, recently replaced Sen. Ed Murray as the Senate Democratic leader, taking over at a time when her party is at its lowest ebb in 16 years. Bill Clinton was still president the last time Senate Democrats had only 23 members.
Republicans, conversely, gained a member during the November elections, giving the GOP-led majority 26 seats, and more control.
In practical terms, Democrats are largely relegated to the sidelines while Republicans run the Senate.
Nelson, of Maury Island, views the session that starts Jan. 13 as a chance to show voters her caucus should be put back in control.
Democrats, she said, plan to highlight differences between the two parties on issues such as transportation and the environment, as well as a measure that would require insurance companies to cover abortions.