Democratic and Republican lawmakers on the Senate Facilities and Operations Committee voted unanimously to move forward with an outside investigator to review the allegation made by Seattle resident Candace Faber.

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OLYMPIA — A Washington Senate committee has agreed to move forward with an investigation into a rape allegation against state Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn.

Democratic and Republican lawmakers on the Senate Facilities and Operations Committee on Thursday voted unanimously to allow the secretary of the Senate to begin looking for an outside investigator.

Seattle resident Candace Faber stepped forward in late September to allege that Fain raped her in 2007 in a hotel room in Washington, D.C., on the night she earned a master’s degree from Georgetown University.

Fain, who was first elected in 2010, has denied the allegation. Both he and Faber, as well as lawmakers in both parties, have called for an investigation.

Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, who serves on the Senate committee, said in a statement that the Senate is “proceeding carefully so that both parties are given the respect they deserve in this process.”

In a joint statement after the meeting, Senate Majority Leader Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, and Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said the chamber has struggled over how to respond, given the incident is alleged to have occurred before Fain’s election to the Legislature.

But the statement said, “We feel that the hiring of an independent third party provides the most potential for a fair, nonpartisan and comprehensive outcome that is satisfactory to everyone involved.”

In his own statement Thursday, Fain said he continues “to strongly deny the allegation” and noted that he quickly called for an investigation after Faber spoke out.

“While this episode has caused incredible stress and pain for my family, I have repeatedly sought a fair and respectful process that will allow me to clear my name and move on,” he said.

Faber on Thursday said she was “glad that they’ve finally decided to take action.”

“I hope it is both swift and thorough,” Faber wrote in a Twitter exchange with a reporter. “I also hope that it prompts them to consider the reality of sexual assault by people in politics, law enforcement, and other government roles, and to improve accountability across the board. ”

It’s unclear whether an investigation would go forward if Fain loses his bid for re-election. Thursday’s updated results showed Fain trailing Democratic challenger Mona Das by about 200 votes.

After the meeting, Nelson said lawmakers would re-evaluate an investigation if Fain loses. If an investigation proceeds, the idea would be to finish it by Dec. 14 if possible — and by year’s end, at the latest.

Secretary of the Senate Brad Hendrickson said his office will seek qualified investigators and choose one that both Republican and Democratic leaders agree upon. The Senate’s budget should be able to absorb the costs, he added.

Hendrickson said that, if an investigation is completed, he expects either a full report or an executive summary would publicly available.

Faber has said she isn’t planning to sue Fain or seek a criminal investigation, but would cooperate with an investigation. A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia has said police would investigate only if the allegation were reported to them.

Before moving forward with an outside investigation, Hendrickson said other ideas were explored. Among the questions were whether the Legislative Ethics Board, the Washington State Patrol or King County — where Fain worked when the alleged incident took place — could conduct a review, he said.

Two Metropolitan King County Council members last month expressed tentative support for an investigation commissioned by the county. But another council member, Claudia Balducci, said the idea wasn’t feasible and would wind up looking “more political than anything else.”

Seattle Times staff reporter Heidi Groover contributed to this report.