Leadership of the state Senate will no longer be divided in two, with the election Monday of Mark Schoesler – an Eastern Washington wheat farmer and one of the longest-serving state lawmakers – as Senate majority leader.
During a meeting in Yakima, Republicans re-elected Schoesler as GOP leader while also elevating him to majority leader, the title they had formerly given to one of the two Democrats who switched sides to give them control of the Senate.
Majority Leader Rodney Tom of Medina decided not to run for another term in the Senate.
Fellow breakaway Democrat Tim Sheldon will continue to ally with Republicans who won an outright majority in last month’s election. Combined, the group – which will continue to call itself the Majority Coalition Caucus – holds a slim 26-to-23 majority.
The House is controlled by Democrats, who have a similarly thin 51-to-47 margin.
Schoesler, a 22-year House and Senate member, is from Ritzville, an hour’s drive southwest of Spokane.
“It’s time to govern and roll up our sleeves to find a better way to improve job growth, fund and reform education and make college more affordable,” Schoesler said in a statement after the vote.
There was some support within the Senate Republican Caucus for Bruce Dammeier of Puyallup to take over as leader, but Dammeier wouldn’t say if he made a formal bid for the job Monday or how many votes Schoesler received.
“In the end we decided to stick with our current strong, stable leadership,” Dammeier said.
Republicans decided to leave their other three top leaders unchanged. Linda Evans Parlette of Wenatchee will remain caucus chair, Joe Fain of Auburn floor leader and Ann Rivers of La Center whip.
Republicans also supported keeping Potlatch Democrat Sheldon as the Senate’s president pro tempore, a position elected by the full Senate.
They made the following changes, though, in lower-tier leadership positions: