Rep. Kelly Merrick, a Republican from House District 14, was the one who became the 21st vote, putting Rep. Louise Stutes in as House Speaker today, in a Democrat-led majority.
The vote was 21-19, with all other votes for Stutes being Democrats and Undeclared. The Republicans have, once again, lost the House.
Stutes had been negotiating with the Republicans, but she has not caucused with them in several years. Her demands to become House Speaker for a Republican-led body were too much for the 20 other Republicans in the House.
Except Merrick, who was first elected in 2018, and reelected last year for a conservative Eagle River district.
The Legislature has been in session for three weeks, and the House remained unorganized until the House session this morning, with Josiah Patkotak as Speaker Pro Tem.
Merrick may be bringing other Republicans to join the majority caucus. Republicans in the House are likely in disarray as they try to organize a minority, and will find out soon who else may go over to the Democrats’ caucus. It’s likely the Democrat caucus will offer Rep. Sara Rasmussen a key position, as some perceive her as a close ally of Merrick. Whether Rep. Bart LeBon also goes over is also considered a possibility.
With 21, the Democrats have the majority, but if they can get that 22nd member, they win a seventh seat on Finance, which is very advantageous.
What position will Merrick get? A likely choice would be co-chair of Finance, since she served on Finance the past two years.
Democrats have recognized that an anti-abortion lawmaker like Merrick is in no position to hurt the pro-abortion cause because of the budget and Covid factors now dominating the Legislature.
With Stutes as Speaker, Rep. Bryce Edgmon will most certainly win a powerful position in the organization, possibly as Rules chair.
Stutes is a take-no-prisoners lawmaker who was known for having a bullwhip hanging on the wall of her office when she was majority whip for the Democrats.
District 14 Republicans said at their last meeting with Merrick she promised them she would not go over to create a Democrat majority. But with Stutes a Republican now as Speaker, she appears to have kept her promise.
This story is being updated. Check back.