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Sen. Mike Carrell dies at age 69

Washington state Senator Mike Carrell of Lakewood has died from complications related to treatment for a pre-leukemia blood disorder.

Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler said Carrell died Wednesday morning at a Seattle hospital of lung complications from his ongoing treatment of transplants from his brother and chemotherapy. Schoesler says that Carrell died in his sleep with his wife, Charlotte, nearby.

Earlier this year, the Lakewood Republican was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, also known as pre-leukemia. The chronic disease affects blood-forming stem cells.

The Republican’s death Wednesday leaves the Senate’s Majority Coalition Caucus down a critical vote, but perhaps not for long.

The 69-year-old Carrell has been absent from the Washington Senate for several weeks due to his illness. But Democrat Jim Hargrove has voted in Carrell’s place as a courtesy. Carrell’s death means the Senate’s mostly-Republican majority caucus now has just 24 members—one short of a majority. But former Republican Party chair and public affairs consultant Chris Vance says finding a replacement for Carrell can happen quickly.

“It actually provides clarity now to the political situation,” Vance said. “The system doesn’t have any mechanism to deal with a senator is too ill to be in the chamber and voting, but the system does provide for a vacancy.”

Vance says the Pierce County Council will choose from a list of three Republicans to fill Carrell’s seat. The Legislature is currently meeting in an overtime session to balance the budget. Carrell is being remembered for, among other legacies, his work to reform the state’s criminal justice and corrections system.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.
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