Life after Murray: Musical chairs in the state legislature

Ed Murray's apparent victory in Seattle mayor's race opens the door for a new Senate minority leader. Several candidates come to mind.
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Ed Murray is poised to be Seattle's next mayor.

Ed Murray's apparent victory in Seattle mayor's race opens the door for a new Senate minority leader. Several candidates come to mind.

State Sen. Ed Murray will now become Mayor Ed Murray. So what happens to Sen. Ed Murray?

Murray's apparent election starts a game of musical chairs in the Washington State Senate and possibly in the House. Meanwhile, a similar shift will take place in the 33rd Legislative District with Rep. Dave Upthegrove easily winning election to the King County Council.

Murray's situation is more complicated because he is the state Senate's minority leader, and the 43rd Legislative District senator. The 43rd District is essentially Capitol Hill, the University District and Wallingford.

Murray will have to resign twice once as minority leader and once as a senator, according to Deputy Minority Leader Karen Fraser, D-Olympia. He can resign both at the same time, or on separate days. That's up to him.

A factor in the timing of those resignations will be Gov. Jay Inslee's call for a short special session. On Tuesday, he called for a special session starting Thursday to work on a transportation revenue package, which might include a gas tax hike and tax breaks for Boeing.

Murray has not yet decided when he'll submit his two resignation letters, according to his mayoral campaign spokesman Sandeep Kaushik.

Although no one has publicly indicated an interest in the Senate minority leader's seat yet, there are some Senate Democrats whose positions in that caucus would make them potential candidates for the spot. They include Fraser, the deputy minority leader; James Hargrove of Hoquiam and Sharon Nelson of Vashon Island,  the Senate Democrats' lead budget writers; David Frockt of Seattle, the Democrats' floor leader; and Tracey Edie of Federal Way, co-chair of the transportation committee, which has developed into a high-profile battleground in the Legislature. Fraser declined to speculate on whom the Democratic caucus might pick.

So who will take Murray's Senate seat?

The 43rd District’s Democrats’ precinct officers will make their recommendations to the county Democratic Party, which will make three recommendations to the King County Council. The replacement must be of the same party as the departing legislator. Murray's resignation as senator triggers the process. The 43rd District Democrats' next regular meeting is on Nov. 19 at the University Heights Community Center. The selection process could begin then or on some other date.

Right now, the district has roughly 160 precinct officers appointed for 209 seats, according to 43rd District Democratic Party chairman Scott Forbes. The county Democrats and the King County Council usually follow the district's precinct officers' recommendations, said Forbes, who declined to say who is interested in Murray's seat.

However, Rep. Jamie Pedersen of the 43rd District said he wants to move into Murray's seat. "It was a tough decision. I am a (judicial) committee chairman with seniority in the House. I would have to give that up to be a freshman in the minority in the Senate," Pedersen said. But, he said, he decided to risk the move.

If Pedersen takes Murray's spot, that opens up his House seat. Forbes, Brady Walkinshaw of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and marijuana legalization leader Alison Holcomb have been mentioned as potential candidates to replace Pedersen if needed. Crosscut has been able to confirm this firsthand only with Walkinshaw. (Crosscut talked with Forbes prior to hearing him mentioned as a potential state representative candidate, and could not reach him for comment later.

The appropriate 33rd District Democratic official could not be reached to get a rundown of the replacement process for Upthegrove.


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About the Authors & Contributors

John Stang

John Stang

John Stang is a freelance writer who often covers state government and the environment. He can be reached on email at and on Twitter at @johnstang_8