SGN interview: Sen. Ed Murray - New Chair of State Senate Democratic Caucus
|SGN interview: Sen. Ed Murray - New Chair of State Senate Democratic Caucus|
|by Mike Andrew -
SGN Contributing Writer
State Senator Ed Murray (D-Seattle) has been elected chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus, the number-two position in the Senate's Democratic leadership. Murray will serve with Sen. Lisa Brown (D-Spokane) who was re-elected Senate majority leader. Sen. Tracy Eide (D-Federal Way) was re-elected majority floor leader, the number-three position in the Democratic leadership.
"It's an honor to be picked as number two in the Senate leadership," Murray said in an exclusive interview with SGN. "I appreciate my colleagues' trust in me."
"I feel more energized than ever," Murray continued, "although I'm apprehensive about the magnitude of the challenges we face. We have a lot on our plate."
Murray cited the state's budget as the most difficult challenge facing the legislature. Washington faces a potential budget shortfall of $5.1 billion, nearly $2 billion more than was projected in September this year.
"We have to show leadership in this challenging economic situation. It won't be easy," he said. "It will be my job to work with the committee chairs and with our members to solve the state's financial problems in a way that will help, not hurt the people of the state."
Murray believes the state is caught in a double bind. "We have a regressive tax system," he says. "There's overuse of the sales tax to fund the state. At the same time, we're facing the worst economic situation since the Great Depression. The jobless rate is up, there's a housing crisis.&"
Murray warns against simplistic solutions to the state's budget problems, however. "Just slashing the budget will not help," he says. "We have a moral obligation to help the disabled, for example. There are many groups which depend on government assistance. You have to be concerned not just with balancing the budget, but with protecting people who live on the margins."
Murray declined to offer specific financial recommendations at this time. "My responsibility is to work with our members and discuss these issues with them. It would be premature to lay out my own ideas," he told SGN.
"I have my preferences," he continued, "but that's easy to say, given that I represent a very liberal, tax-friendly district. In any case, this is not a one-time problem, it will be continuing for some time. We don't know how long."
Murray was an early endorser of President-elect Barack Obama. "I endorsed him as soon as he announced," Murray recalls. "My partner and I had the opportunity to hear him speak to the Democratic Convention in 2004, and I knew then that he had a future."
He looks forward to working with "a new administration and a new congress. After eight very bad years, at last we have a federal government that wants to assist the states instead of dumping problems on the states."
Murray was also particularly pleased with the re-election of Gov. Christine Gregoire. "The Governor's re-election definitely improves the ability of our community to move forward on protecting our relationships," he says.
Murray was a featured speaker at the November 15 March for Marriage Equality, where he called for a mass march on the state legislature in Olympia. An openly Gay man in a long-term relationship, who represents a district with a large concentration of LGBT constituents, Murray has long been a leading advocate for marriage equality.
"People ask, 'when will we get marriage?'" he says. "A better question would be, 'when will we organize at the grassroots level to get it?'"
Murray believes a march on Olympia should be part of a multi-faceted political strategy. "A march has to be attached to Gay and Lesbian families connecting with legislators," Murray said. "We're just at the beginning of the effort to get to know legislators outside of Seattle - what they need from us and what we can help them with."
Asked what Seattle voters - whose representatives are already friendly to their LGBT constituents - could do to help this process, Murray said, "Seattle people shouldn't just take their representatives for granted. Meet with them. Seattle people can also help to organize a statewide LGBT organization. They can volunteer with ERW or other organizations."
In spite of the difficulties he foresees, Murray remains upbeat. "This is the most interesting job," he says. "The pay is crap, but I'm always excited by what we can actually do. We can do a lot. Sometimes it takes a while, but we can accomplish things."