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Local Senator skeptical but hopeful with new leadership coaltion

January 15th, 2013 - 6:14am

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - A Republican-dominated coalition has taken power in the state Senate, establishing a new majority leader on the first day of the legislative session and rejecting Democrats' offer to co-chair all Senate committees.

On a 25-23 vote, the newly formed "majority coalition" caucus voted themselves in as the majority, essentially deposing Democratic state Sen. Ed Murray, who was elected as majority leader in November.

The new coalition has said that Democratic Sen. Rodney Tom of Medina will serve as their new majority leader.

24th District Senator Jim Hargrove, a Democrat, says he is skeptical of the new leadership coalition.

I was very excited a couple of years ago when the Senate started moving in a bipartisan direction. Senator Murray and Senator Zarelli came up with what was the first real bipartisan budget in my 29 year career. In the past, we had seen examples of one or two members going along with the votes of the other party, but this was the first time the Senate as a whole acknowledged that working together was the only way to pass a two-year spending plan that took into account the diverse opinions of the body. In the Human Services and Corrections committee I chaired for years with Senator Carrell and Val Stevens, it was so bipartisan that I think that nearly every bill came out unanimously. One of my press people has actually confirmed that. In fact, I am so bipartisan that sometimes my party wonders if Im in my party or the other party," said Hargrove. I stand ready, as I think everyone here does, to work in a true bipartisan fashion, because that is what it is going to take to finish our work and get out of here.

Hargrove and Democrats have a small majority in the Senate, controlling 26 of 49 seats. But Tom and fellow Democratic Sen. Tim Sheldon have said they'll work with the chamber's 23 Republicans in the new coalition and will caucus with them.

That new caucus now holds a 25-24 advantage.

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