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Senate Democrats will elect a leader Tuesday — or will they?

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on Nov. 10, 2012 at 11:00 am |
January 28, 2013 6:29 pm

Seattle state Sen. Ed Murray shepherded a same-sex marriage law to a victory in the Legislature and then at the ballot, the culmination of his long and patient strategy to advance gay rights in Washington.

Sen. Ed Murray

So what does he do for his next act?

Based on the R-74 victory celebration that erupted in Seattle’s Capitol Hill Tuesday night — which saw Murray and his partner climb to the roof of a car for a speech — it seems like Murray could be a strong contender for mayor of Seattle if he wants the job.

He says he hasn’t decided whether to run for mayor in 2013.

But in the meantime, he has his sights set on the top position among Senate Democrats, who kept their majority in this election but whose true control hangs by a fingernail. They will breath easier if Rep. Tim Probst can knock off Republican Sen. Don Benton, but a recount will likely have to sort that out. Probst leads by just 16 votes.

Majority Leader Lisa Brown is leaving the Senate, and Murray said he will ask Democrats to name him their leader at their first post-election meeting Tuesday. ”We’re going to reorganize and elect a leader on Tuesday and currently I think I’m the only person who’s actively pursuing it,” Murray said Friday.

His election would leave vacancies in all three top budget-writing jobs for Democrats. Murray is chairman of the Ways and Means Committee that writes the operating budget; his vice-chair Derek Kilmer dealt with the capital budget but was just elected to Congress; and Transportation Committee chairwoman Mary Margaret Haugen lost her re-election bid.

Not so fast, said Kent Sen. Karen Keiser, a potential candidate for one of the top jobs.

“I’m not even sure we’ll elect a leader on Tuesday at this point,” Keiser said. “It might be it’s a little too soon to take the next step.”

She and Murray both said the caucus would talk Tuesday about where it’s headed. “We need to see if we have consensus on where we’re going,” Keiser said.

She said she worries if Murray becomes leader, Democrats face a tough decision about who replaces him as top budgeter — a job she would be interested in herself. She didn’t rule out seeking the leader’s position, either, saying she hasn’t made any decision.

Keiser has led the caucus on health-care issues, including implementation of Obamacare, which requires creation of health-insurance exchanges.

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