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King is a moderate Democrat from Price, one of the few areas of the state solidly controlled by the minority party. His district includes San Juan County and parts of Carbon, Emery and Grand counties.

He said his priorities in the coming year are advancing the party's views on health care and education and working to increase the number of Democrats in the Legislature after the 2008 election. He said work is already underway to recruit quality candidates.

"We are the loyal opposition and that gives us some responsibility to represent those who don't have a voice and to remind our [Republican] colleagues of our priorities, things that perhaps they overlook," King said.

King is vice president of institutional advancement and student services at the College of Eastern Utah in Price. He has been in the Legislature since 1997 and served as minority whip in the last session and served on the Executive Appropriations Committee.

The Democratic caucus met for more than 90 minutes Monday evening before selecting King over Rep. Karen Morgan, D-Cottonwood Heights, a homemaker and former school teacher who would have been the first female House leader from the minority or majority in more than three decades.

The Democratic leadership team includes Rep. David Litvack of Salt Lake City as minority whip; Rep. Carol Spackman-Moss of Holladay who is retaining her position as assistant minority whip; and Rep. Phil Riesen of Olympus Cove who succeeds Litvack as caucus manager.

Becker's replacement in the Legislature will be named by the end of the year, King said.

King acknowledged that Democrats are outnumbered - Republicans hold a 55-20 majority in the House. But, he said, "when the issues are on your side and the people are with you, things are easy."

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