After eight years in the state House of Representatives -- and winning a fifth term by a landslide on Tuesday -- Rep. Larry Haler officially turned his eye to the state Senate on Thursday.
Haler, R-Richland, told the Herald that he will apply for Jerome Delvin's 8th District Senate seat when Delvin steps down to take office as a Benton County commissioner.
"I am the most logical choice due to my time and service and leadership held in the Legislature so far," Haler said.
As of Thursday, Haler was leading Democratic opponent Richard Reuther, also of Richland, 73 to 27 percent.
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Preliminary results showed Delvin, R-Richland, leading Richland School Board President Rick Jansons, also a Republican, in the race to replace outgoing Commissioner Leo Bowman with 64 percent to Jansons' 36 percent.
Delvin has served 18 years in the Legislature, and has two years left on his current four-year term.
He told the Herald that he plans to resign from the Senate to serve on the Benton County Commission, but not until he participates in legislative committee meetings in December and introduces a few bills of interest to the 8th Legislative District. His resignation likely will come in early January.
The Benton County Republican Party and county commissioners have 60 days after Delvin's resignation to name a successor, or else the governor gets to appoint someone. The state constitution mandates that the replacement is a member of Delvin's party.
Haler said if appointed to the Senate, his top priorities will be to try to pass an amendment to the state constitution requiring a balanced budget, reducing the tuition burden on students at state colleges and universities, and funding K-12 education.
He said he also will work to get funding in the state capital budget -- which is a separate pool of money from the operating budget -- for Delta High School's new building in Richland.
He would hope for a seat on one of the Senate budget committees to have a voice in how state money is spent. In the House, Haler sits on the Ways & Means Committee, which oversees the House budget. He also sits on the Technology, Energy & Communication Committee, has been an advocate for nuclear energy in the Legislature, and is the ranking minority member of the Higher Education Committee.
Haler told the Herald he also will continue Delvin's legacy of supporting programs and funding for people with developmental disabilities.
"I feel that would be natural because I have been doing that in the House," he said. "They are a passion of mine as well as education."
The process for filling a legislative vacancy according to the state constitution is for the local party committee to take applications from potential candidates, and then for the party precinct officers in the legislative district to narrow the field to three names.
County commissioners in the legislative district then appoint one of those three. The person appointed then has to run in the next election. In this case, that would be in 2013.
The 8th District includes Richland, West Richland and most of Kennewick, all in Benton County.
If Haler applies and is appointed to the Senate seat, the same process would be followed to appoint his replacement in the House of Representatives.
-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org