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Senate majority gets new leader

The Alaska Senate bipartisan majority has replaced state Sen. Johnny Ellis as the majority leader.

The Anchorage Democrat is being replaced by Sen. Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage.

Republican Sen. Gary Stevens of Kodiak remains Senate president.

The legislative session begins Jan. 18.

Half of the 20 Senate seats were on the ballot Tuesday, and the Republican-Democrat split will continue to be 10-10.

For the state House, where all 40 seats were on the ballot, the Republicans increased their majority as a result of Tuesday's vote.

The Republicans have held a 22-18 majority over Democrats for the past two years. The new majority when the legislative session begins will be 24-16.

"It's been a great night for Republicans across the nation and in Alaska," state GOP chairman Randy Ruedrich said Tuesday.

The House Republicans picked up three seats that had been held by Democrats:

• Four-year incumbent Bob Buch lost to Republican Mia Costello in a seat that represents the Sand Lake area of Anchorage. When it became clear Tuesday that Buch would lose, House Minority Leader Beth Kertulla of Juneau remarked: "It's hard to lose Bob. He's a great guy."

• Six-year incumbent Woodie Salmon of Chalkyitsik lost to Republican Alan Dick for a seat representing a giant swath of Alaska, stretching from the lower Kuskokwim River east of Bethel, up along the Yukon River through Interior Alaska, and then south along the Canadian border into the Wrangell Mountains area. Dick lives upriver of Lime Village.

• An open East Anchorage seat held for 10 years by Democrat Harry Crawford, who instead ran unsuccessfully for Congress. Republican Lance Pruitt won this seat for a two-year term.

The Republicans lost one House seat to the Democrats: Rep. Mike Kelly, a six-year incumbent from Fairbanks, lost to Democrat Bob Miller. Kelly was targeted for defeat by Alaska labor unions over what they called his unfriendly stance toward working family issues.

Of the 50 state legislative seats on the ballot Tuesday, 19 of them had just one candidate in the race.

Five incumbent senators had no opponent.

Fourteen incumbent representatives had no opponent.

Separately on Tuesday, voters defeated a proposed amendment to the state constitution calling for an increase in the number of state legislators. The proposal was to expand the House from 40 members to 44 and to expand the Senate from 20 members to 22.

Only 40 percent of voters thought that was a good idea. Backers of the amendment said several legislative districts span such vast distances and a variety of local economies that they're hard to represent effectively. Enlarging the size of the Legislature would have shrunk the size of the districts.

Daily News staff and wires