State senators fondly remembering Mike Carrell on Monday made it clear the Lakewood Republicans death leaves big shoes to fill.
A new senator could step into them as soon as Tuesday.
The Pierce County Councils rules committee fast-tracked the appointment Monday, calling a special meeting of the council for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday to interview the three candidates and consider an emergency resolution to choose one.
Local Republicans and anti-tax activist Tim Eyman had urged speedy action, fearing Democrats would take advantage of a 24-24 tie in the Senate that leaves Democratic Lt. Gov. Brad Owen as the potential tie-breaker.
Council Chairwoman Joyce McDonald, R-Puyallup, said she was inclined to follow the regular process that would have allowed a vote next Tuesday at the earliest. But she said the council was deluged with requests from the district to act fast.
I happen to agree with them that this is a very important time for them to be represented in Olympia, during the discussions on the biennial budget, McDonald said. Its a big deal for the people of the 28th District.
Before the meeting, Eyman harangued the council for not making a timetable clear for the appointment, even as McDonald told him to stop his grandstanding.
The council can pick any of the three Republicans nominated by local party activists to serve until a special election in November 2014.
The partys top choice is former County Councilman Dick Muri. State Rep. Steve OBan and University Place City Councilman Javier Figueroa are the other candidates.
The council will interview them on the 10th floor of the County-City Building, 930 Tacoma Ave. S. in Tacoma. The 1:30 p.m. meeting will be shown live on PCTV, which is Channel 22 on Click and Comcast cable television and Channel 20 on Rainier Connect.
Muri said hes ready to make his case and glad the GOP-controlled council is moving quickly. But Democratic councilman Rick Talbert said he has questions about whether emergency action is needed, especially because there was no comparable haste when the council appointed a senator in January in a joint decision with Kitsap County commissioners.
McDonald said that appointment to replace Congress-bound Derek Kilmer required scheduling around officials calendars, and it didnt generate nearly the same level of public input from the 26th District. McDonald also noted that it came as the regular legislative session was barely getting underway.
But the Senate took critical early votes to reject a Democratic plan for running the chamber and adopt a plan that put Republicans and two maverick Democrats in charge. Sen. Nathan Schlicher, D-Gig Harbor, arrived too late to participate in that debate, where his vote wouldnt have changed the outcome.
Now in a special session through next Tuesday, lawmakers are struggling to reach a budget deal. It has been unclear how much the vacancy of Carrells seat matters.
Democrats would have to decide to take advantage of the tie, risking the perception they would be exploiting a colleagues death. They would have to persuade their more conservative members to go along, and they would have to execute complicated parliamentary maneuvers.
In any case, such a move likely is impossible if the council acts Tuesday, said Senate Democratic Leader Ed Murray of Seattle.
Murray said they certainly considered it, with some of their members convinced it would be preferable to a shutdown of government programs that could loom if no budget deal is struck by July 1.
Murray blamed Republicans for seeking to push Washington over a fiscal cliff, which was denied by Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler of Ritzville.
Partisan sniping was set aside for a while Monday as Democrats and Republicans on the Senate floor honored Carrell for fighting on behalf of his constituents and the issues he cared about and for learning to compromise.
Carrell died Wednesday of complications from treatment for a blood condition.
He became a true statesman, said Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, R-Wenatchee, of Carrells evolution. The difference was absolutely remarkable. If he were here today, he would tell us, Get this job done; its time to go home.
Jordan Schrader: 360-786-1826