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Originally published Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at 2:17 PM

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DeBolt stepping down as House minority leader

Minority Leader Richard DeBolt announced Wednesday he is stepping down as House Republican leader because of recent unspecified health problems.

Associated Press

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OLYMPIA, Wash. —

Minority Leader Richard DeBolt announced Wednesday he is stepping down as House Republican leader because of recent unspecified health problems.

DeBolt, of Chehalis, told colleagues on the House floor that he is handing off the position but will serve out his two-year term.

"I'm not leaving," DeBolt said. "I'm just changing roles for a while."

Last week, he missed several days at the Legislature and was hospitalized after he collapsed at his home.

"Two years ago, I had some severe health challenges, and now I'm going to face some new challenges," DeBolt told fellow lawmakers. "I know I'm going to be fine, but it's time for me to step aside as leader of the House Republican caucus."

DeBolt left the Capitol after his announcement and made no further comments to media.

DeBolt, 47, suffered from potassium imbalances two years ago and has had some kidney problems that he's been taking medication for, said Republican Rep. Joel Kretz of Wauconda.

Kretz has been named acting minority leader until the caucus reorganizes its leadership. Kretz said that DeBolt was awaiting some tests that should be back by the end of the week, and the hope is that he'll be able to continue to come back to the Capitol on a part-time basis through the remainder of the legislative session, which is scheduled to end April 28.

Kretz said doctors have told DeBolt to avoid stress, coffee and salt.

"This place is all about coffee and pizza right now and massive stress," he said. "It's the things he should not be around."

House Speaker Frank Chopp lauded DeBolt's service as leader, saying in a statement that his "dedication to his caucus, this institution and the state has been unwavering."

DeBolt was first selected as minority leader in 2004, and then served in the role again from 2006 until this week.

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AP writer Jonathan Kaminsky contributed to this report. Follow Rachel La Corte at http://www.twitter.com/RachelAPOly or http://www.facebook.com/news.rachel.

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