OLYMPIA — Washington Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler, who had a hand in guiding Republicans through several years in the majority, will step down from his leadership post, a spokesperson confirmed on Monday.
Schoesler will step down from leadership but continue as a rank-and-file lawmaker, according to Kim Wirtz, communications director for the Senate Republican caucus. GOP senators are expected to choose a new leader this week.
A wheat farmer and Republican from Ritzville, Adams County, Schoesler, 63, is one of the Legislature’s longest-serving members. He comfortably won reelection this month to his 9th Legislative District seat.
In an interview, Schoesler said he wanted to spend more time with his children, grandchild and farm.
“The farm, the grandkids, take a back seat for what’s best for the caucus, ” when serving as leader, Schoesler said.
In a statement, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig of Spokane said the two often disagreed, but had a good working relationship.
“I have known Sen. Schoesler for many years and although we often disagree on policy questions, we have built a positive working relationship based on our shared commitment to good government and passion for the success of this state,” Billig said in prepared remarks. “I look forward to continuing to work with Sen. Schoesler as he continues in a new role within the Senate.”
First elected to the House in 1993, Schoesler won election to the Senate in 2004, according to his legislative webpage, and has held leadership roles since 2006.
In 2013, aided by the defection of a pair of moderate Democrats who crossed the aisle to join them, Republicans assembled a coalition caucus that gave them a Senate majority.
Schoesler served in the second-highest leadership role in that coalition before becoming majority leader in 2015.
He guided the Republican-led Senate to gain leverage against House Democrats and Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee. Notably, Inslee and Democrats agreed in 2017 to adopt the GOP approach — a sweeping change in the property-tax system — to fund the court-ordered K-12 education funding plan in the wake of the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision.
Two years before that, the GOP Senate majority was able to reach agreement with Democrats to push through a cut in tuition at Washington’s colleges and universities.
Schoesler said he counted those as two main achievements for Republicans, as well as broad consensus for the $16 billion statewide transportation package that lawmakers in both parties and Inslee approved in 2015.
Monday’s announcement comes as Democratic and Republican lawmakers continue to announce new committee assignments and leadership roles ahead of the legislative session scheduled to begin in January.