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Originally published Friday, December 21, 2012 at 8:56 PM

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Senate Dems to ask Lt. Gov. Owen to help shift power to new majority

Senate Democratic Leader Ed Murray says he'll ask Lt. Gov. Brad Owen to help sort out an orderly transition of power in the state Senate.

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"...his caucus prepares to hand over reins to a new alliance of 23 Republicans and... MORE

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Senate Democratic Leader Ed Murray says he is going to ask Lt. Gov. Brad Owen for help in sorting out an orderly transition of power in the chamber — as his caucus prepares to hand over reins to a new alliance of 23 Republicans and two Democrats on Jan. 14.

Murray also said late Thursday in a phone interview that he is willing to give up claims to leadership offices in the state Capitol, leaving his caucus' space to Sen. Rodney Tom, the dissident Medina Democrat who along with maverick Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlach, in Mason County, is forming the new majority caucus with the Republican minority.

Murray's announcements were the latest turns in a strange, evolving situation in the Senate where Democrats have 26 seats, Republicans led by Sen. Mark Schoesler, of Ritzville in Adams County, have 23, and the new coalition led by Tom and Schoesler is trying to seize power.

Murray's offer to bring in Owen as peacemaker might provide an end to the unfolding soap opera over who is in charge at the Senate — and how the transfer of power will take place before lawmakers show up mid-January for a 105-day session.

Tom had said it was the Democrats who were failing to meet and talk over a transition plan, while Murray said it was Tom's new team that was balking.

But Tom later welcomed news of Murray's decision to seek out Owen, a Democrat known for his even-handedness during Senate floor sessions, as a broker.

"I think that's what we've been asking for. I'm happy to see there is some movement there, and we can get some things worked out. So on the 14th we can get on with the people's business," Tom said.

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