Three Democrats from rural Western Alaska districts have left the House's Democratic Caucus to join Nikiski Republican Rep. Mike Chenault's Majority Caucus, Chenault announced Monday.
Longtime Rep. Reggie Joule, D-Kotzebue, and second-term Rep. Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, will be joined by newly elected Rep. Bob Herron, D-Bethel, in becoming members of the Republican-led Majority Caucus. All will get minor leadership positions.
That move likely ends the hopes of Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, to use the growing numbers of Democrats elected to the House to win control of the body.
The three Democrats who changed their alliances join Rep. Richard Foster, D-Nome, who has long caucused with the Republicans.
"It's an opportunity for us to highlight issues effecting rural Alaska," said Joule, in a press release announcing the change.
Kerttula, currently House minority leader, said she was disappointed by the defections.
She's spent years working with Joule in the Democratic caucus.
"I think after a decade in the minority he wanted to be in the majority," she said.
Chenault said Joule will be a member of the House Finance Committee, while Edgmon will be co-chairman of the House Special Committee on Energy, and Herron will be co-chairman of the House Health and Social Services Committee.
Edgmon said the new membership in the Majority Caucus would give rural Alaska a stronger voice in raising issues such as energy.
The Republican-led Majority Caucus membership is now at 26, while the Democratic Minority is at 14. By party registration, Republicans have a 22-18 majority.
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