State GOP Senate leader has tumor in abdomen

OLYMPIA — The top Republican in the state Senate will undergo surgery to remove a tumor in his abdomen, saying in a statement Friday that he is optimistic the procedure will be a success.

Walla Walla Sen. Mike Hewitt said the thymoma tumor was only recently discovered. He is set to undergo surgery on Monday.

Hewitt said he expects to be back at work soon after spending a couple days recovering at University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. The medical procedure comes as top lawmakers, including Hewitt, have been working to finalize a long-sought budget deal.

“Although I will be recovering, if I need to be at the Capitol for a critical vote, I will be there,” Hewitt said.

A gregarious fiscal conservative who is well liked in both parties, Hewitt was first elected to the Senate in 2000 and rose to become Senate Republican Leader in 2005. He’s an avid fisherman and talented photographer who owned and operated a distributing company for 23 years.

Hewitt and his wife have two grown sons.

Hewitt said his top budget writer, Sen. Joe Zarelli, would continue talks on the state’s new spending plan while Sen. Mark Schoesler of Ritzville would carry out his responsibilities as floor leader.

“I appreciate the well-wishes of those with whom I’ve shared this news so far,” Hewitt said. “Although some of us belong to different parties and play different roles, we do support each other in our challenges. It’s one of the things I appreciate most about being part of the Legislature.”

Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire wished him and his family the best, saying they were in her thoughts and prayers.

“Like his colleagues, I was deeply saddened to learn of Sen. Hewitt’s health challenges,” Gregoire said.

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