Wife of senator on military duty set to fill in for him in Olympia

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The wife of a state senator has been sworn in as a temporary senator in order to fill in for the Centralia Republican while he's participating in required military training with the U.S. Navy Reserve.

Sen. John Braun's wife, Marlo Braun, a registered nurse at Providence Hospital in Centralia, was sworn in by Lewis County District Court Judge Wade Samuelson on the Senate floor.

The move comes following majority approval by county officials in District 20 of a request of her husband, who invoked a little-used provision for a fill-in so his district wouldn't go unrepresented during the final days of the third special session that ends Thursday.

Lawmakers are still working to try and reach a deal on both a two-year capital budget and a water rights bill before they adjourn.

Marlo Braun, 50, said that while serving in the Senate was never in her game plan, she's "happy to fill in for him while he's serving our country."

Sen. John Braun is serving as commanding officer of a U.S. Navy Reserve detachment supporting U.S. Pacific Command at Camp Smith, Hawaii.

The last time a temporary senator was sworn in under the provision was in 2005, when Spokane Republican John Wyss served three days for then-Sen. Brad Benson, a major in the Air National Guard. Before that, then-Sen. Mike Kreidler, now the state insurance commissioner, stepped aside for part of a year in 1991 when he was called up to reserve duty during Operation Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf 1990 and 1991. He was replaced by his wife, Lela.

The state statute allows for elected officials to be temporarily replaced if they are called up to active service or training. Under the language of the resolution adopted by the counties, Marlo Braun was retroactively appointed to the Senate as of the time her husband's duty started, on July 15. Her appointment runs until "approximately Sunday."

Lewis and Thurston counties voted in favor of the appointment on Monday, and Clark County voted Tuesday. However, a mix-up in Cowlitz County on Tuesday morning ultimately led to a revote later in the day to rescind a vote for Chehalis attorney and former lawmaker J. Vander Stoep and instead vote to appoint Marlo Braun.

John Braun had originally selected Vander Stoep as his replacement, but he was not available, thus leading to the request for Marlo Braun to step in. Cowlitz officials said they did not originally see the follow-up request for the change.