By RACHEL LA CORTE
OLYMPIA — Republican Sen. Brian Dansel resigned from the Washington Senate on Tuesday to take a job with the administration of President Donald Trump.
Dansel, 33, announced that he will be a special assistant to the U.S. secretary of agriculture, and will start his job in Washington, D.C. immediately.
“It has been the honor of my life to serve as your senator, and this decision was not an easy one for me,” he said in a written statement.
Dansel, of Republic, was elected in a special election to the Senate representing Eastern Washington’s 7th District. He was elected to a full four-year term the following year. The former Ferry County commissioner was previously a golf pro.
The announcement of his resignation comes a day after it was revealed that fellow Republican Sen. Doug Ericksen accepted a temporary position with the Environmental Protection Agency. Ericksen was named communications director for Trump’s transition team at EPA, but has said he doesn’t plan to resign his seat in the state Senate, and instead will fly back and forth to the state as needed during the state’s 105-day legislative session.
Republicans control the Senate with a narrow 25-24 majority with the help of a Democrat who caucuses with them. With Dansel’s resignation, the chamber will be tied until a replacement can be selected for Dansel’s seat.
Lawmakers this session are tasked with drawing up a new two-year operating budget that addresses a court mandate requiring lawmakers this session to find a solution to fully fund the state’s basic education system. House and Senate Democrats have released a proposal, but House and Senate Republicans have not yet released a plan.
Senate Democratic leader Sharon Nelson noted that no bills have been voted on in the chamber since session started Jan. 9 and that some Senate committee hearings have been cancelled because of the job restructuring.
Absent a majority, “Republican leadership can work across the aisle to solve our education funding crisis, or they can continue to use the waiting game as a way to keep the Senate in a state of gridlock,” she said in a written statement.
Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said in a statement the recent news about his caucus members’ appointments in the new administration “should have no effect on the Senate’s ability to pass an education funding plan or a budget.”
“It’s good to see Washington state getting a seat at the table in the new administration,” he said.
Former state Sen. Don Benton, of Vancouver, has also gotten a temporary job with the new administration. He was named senior White House adviser supervising the EPA transition.