OLYMPIA -- The State Senate held a moment of silence today for Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood, who died earlier this morning.
Carrell, 69, a 19-year veteran of the Legislature, was a champion of legislation to help at-risk youth, fight sex trafficking, help members of the military and veterans and support law enforcement. The retired math and science teacher was diagnosed with a blood disease earlier this year that is a precursor to leukemia, and was undergoing stem-cell transplants and chemotherapy for treatment. He was unavailable to be present for the closing weeks of the regular session while he went through treatment, although he did keep up with legislation with regular phone conversations with other members.
Sen. Mark Schoesler of Ritzville, the Senate Republican Leader, said Carrell died peacefully in his sleep at University of Washington hospital with his wife Charlotte nearby. He succumbed to lung complications from the medical treatment.
"Senator Carrell was at true statesman who put the people of Washington above all else during his 19 years of public service as a legislator," Schoesler said in a press release. "His commitment to his community was always evident in his work and you always knew exactly where you stood with him."
Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, the lone member of the Majority Coalition Caucus in the chamber who was managing thebrief pro forma session, announced Carrell's death and asked for a moment of silence. The announcement stunned minority Democrats, who were in the chamber while taking a break from a caucus meeting to prepare for the second half of the special session.
Carrell's death creates a political challenge for the Senate as it tries to pass an operating budget or any other controversial legislation in the special session.
He was a member of the Majority Coalition Caucus, the 23 Republicans and two Democrats who banded together late last year to wrest control from the remaining 24 Democrats. Until a replacement is appointed, the Senate is split evenly at 24-24.
Under state law, Carrell's appointed replacement will be a Republican, nominated by precinct committee officers in the 28th District, which covers parts of Pierce County,then selected by the county council. It's a process that usually takes two weeks or more.