Sen. Andy Billig of Spokane is new Senate majority leader

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OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Senate Democrats in Washington state on Monday elected Sen. Andy Billig of Spokane to be their new leader.

Billig takes over immediately, replacing Sen. Sharon Nelson, who announced earlier this year she wasn't seeking re-election to her seat.

"I am humbled to lead this diverse and talented group of senators," Billig said in a written statement. "This caucus recognizes that bipartisanship and viewpoints from every corner of Washington are crucial in moving our state forward."

He takes over a majority that has already increased its numbers to a 27-22 margin following last week's election. Two other races for Republican-held seats are currently in recount territory.

Billig, who was first elected to the state House in 2011, has served in the Senate since 2013. He's the only Democrat in the Senate from eastern Washington.

Nelson, a former banker and environmental activist, was first elected to the Senate in 2010 after serving in the House for three years. She became leader of the Senate Democratic caucus five years ago, and became majority leader after Democrats regained a one-seat majority following the 2017 election.

Nelson said that she is "leaving the Senate in good hands with a majority leader who will truly put people first."

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