State Senate Republican Leader Mike Hewitt announced today he would step down from the top position in the GOP caucus after seven years, saying he aims to “to promote new Senate leadership from the center.”
It’s one more sign that it’s a new era in the Senate. Top GOP budget writer Joe Zarelli didn’t run for re-election, so Republicans will have newcomers in their two most important jobs. Among Democrats, Majority Leader Lisa Brown didn’t run for re-election, and Ways and Means Committee chairman Ed Murray has replaced Brown, leaving an opening for a new top Democratic budget writer.
All this shuffling happens amid huge uncertainty over who will truly control the Senate, as Sen. Don Benton leads his challenger by 105 votes. There is talk brewing among Republicans and conservative Democrats about electing chairmen from both parties to lead committees — or even elevating centrist Democrat Rodney Tom to majority leader in place of Murray, which brings us back to Hewitt’s goal of centrist leadership.
Hewitt said he would “encourage a new model of leadership.”
The Walla Walla Republican dealt with medical problems last winter, undergoing major surgery to remove a tumor in his abdomen. But the surgery was a success and he was given a clean bill of health.
Here’s his news release:
Hewitt announces he will not run again for Senate Republican Leader
Encouraged by new generation of leadership
OLYMPIA… Sen. Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, and leader of the Senate Republican Caucus, announced that he will not be seeking reelection as leader. He will continue to proudly serve the citizens of the 16th Legislative District.
“It has been the honor of my life to serve the citizens of the 16th legislative District and the people of the state of Washington as the leader of the Senate Republican Caucus. I am now entering a new season in which I will turn over the leadership reins and focus my energies on the citizens of southeast Washington.
“I am thankful for the stalwart leadership team with which I have had the privilege to work. I am also thrilled by the new generation of leadership in the Senate Republican Caucus. Incoming and existing suburban Senators Rivers, Dammeier, Hill, Litzow, Baumgartner and Fain give a whole new face to principles of responsible government closer to the people. New senators such as Barbara Bailey, Kirk Pearson and John Braun will give strong leadership to more conservative areas of the state.
“In addition, this is the right time for me to step back and encourage a new model of leadership in the state Senate. I want to promote new Senate leadership from the center. Focusing on centrist policy rather than party labels is what will make the people of Washington a winner.
“Finally, my health challenges this past year have helped me focus on the important things of life. My wife Cory has been my biggest cheerleader as I have taken extra time devoted to public service of the state of Washington. It is with great love and gratitude that I thank her for allowing me to devote the extraordinary amount of time needed to represent all the people of the state.”
Hewitt was elected to the Senate in 2000 and elected Senate Republican Leader in December 2005. Senate Republican caucus leadership elections will be held Wednesday, Nov. 28.
Click here to view Sen. Hewitt’s biography.