Sharon Nelson, a first-term senator from Maury Island, is the new leader of the minority Senate Democrats.
Nelson led Democratic senators' campaign operation and helped represent them in state budget negotiations.
On Wednesday the 23-member group -- one fewer than before this month's election -- chose her as leader. She replaces Ed Murray, who was elected this month as mayor of Seattle.
The choice ends a brief all-male leadership of Olympia's "five corners" power centers, the four political caucuses of the Legislature and the governor's office.
Nelson is a liberal but by all accounts worked well with the mostly Republican majority as a budget writer.
“I will do everything in my power to reach across the aisle whenever possible in order to find solutions to anything from budget deficits to fully funding education,” Nelson said in a statement. “But I think being a good leader – especially of a minority party – means you need to be both tough and fair."
She defeated Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, for leader.
Nelson, a former banker, has been vocal on financial issues such as her opposition to payday lending. She is also an environmentalist who fought against a proposed gravel mine on Maury Island.
She worked as chief of staff to then-King County councilman Dow Constantine, now the county executive, before coming to the House in 2007 and the Senate in 2011.