State Sen. Mike Carrell (R-Lakewood), 1944-2013.

State Sen. Mike Carrell (R-Lakewood), 1944-2013.

On Wednesday morning, State Sen. Mike Carrell (R-Lakewood) succumbed to complications of treatment he was receiving for a blood disease, his death creating an emotional shockwave through Olympia.

From the time of Carrell’s diagnosis earlier this year, his fellow Senate Republicans have had personal and professional reasons to pray for his recovery. As a retired school teacher and 19-year veteran of the Legislature, Carrell held a reputation as a statesman among colleagues within both parties, and as a member of the Republican-led Senate Majority Coalition Caucus that until today held a razor-thin 25-24 voting advantage his “yeas” and “nays” were critical.

Carrell’s death summons a reality that no one wanted to fully prepare for, and legislators[pullquote]Perhaps Owen, Murray and the Senate Democrats will surprise us and show more honor to Carrell after his death than he did when the 69-year-old public servant was fighting to cling on to life. We would be overjoyed by that outcome, as would the voters, no doubt. [/pullquote] have to balance their mourning for a friend with the cold task of finding Carrell’s successor.

Now that Senate voting could be deadlocked 24-24 along caucus lines, Senate rules allowing Democratic Lt. Gov. Brad Owen to cast a tie-breaking vote are not just a speculation. In a recent interview, Owen stated that at the time he believed Democrats should not feel obligated to cast proxy votes for Carrell, then-living.

Statements made by State Sen. Ed Murray (D-Seattle) — who is also running in Seattle’s mayoral race — at the end of the regular session were similarly vague and left open the possibility of a power grab in comments made on the State Democrats website.

“Democrats and Republicans should jointly recognize the fluid nature of the Senate at present and govern accordingly,” Murray said.

Murray and Senate Democrats acted by launching two coup attempts during regular session, both of which failed.

Perhaps Owen, Murray and the Senate Democrats will surprise us and show more honor to Carrell after his death than he did when the 69-year-old public servant was fighting to cling on to life. We would be overjoyed by that outcome, as would the voters, no doubt. We will not, however, hold our breath, and neither do Republicans appear to be counting on any grace from the self-anointed “party of fairness” either.

Pierce County Republicans have already begun to organize the process of selecting a replacement, as reported by Jeff Rhodes of The Olympia Report:

By state law, the Pierce County Republican Party is required to present a slate of replacement candidates to the [Pierce County Council], which would then make a final appointment.

Twenty-eighth District Republican Chair Bob Brown said on Wednesday afternoon he is scheduled to meet with GOP precinct committee officers at 6 p.m. on Thursday, followed by a meeting with the party’s central committee at 7:30.

“We will have a list of replacement candidates by the end of the evening,” he said.

Brown was unsure how long it would take the Pierce County [councilmembers] to make the final selection, but said he’d already spoken with one commissioner and encouraged him to act “in a very expedited manner.”

Expedited is such a subjective word, and county politics are typically briar patches of pesky (some might say petty) personal squabbling that all too often thwart quick decision-making.

The Senate Majority Coalition Caucus has produced a slate of bipartisan reforms that without question more closely resemble the kinds of policy voters have supported in polls and at the ballot box. Standing against a Democrat-controlled state House and a Democratic governor, their will to set a better course than routine tax increases and routine spending growth is a rare opportunity for taxpayers to see real change–even the relatively small changes proposed—in the way our state government operates.

Just as with our hope that the Democrats’ collective heart has grown two sizes this day, we have the same wish for Republicans to move quickly to select a suitable candidate quickly so that the people are represented in Olympia.