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Sen. Nancy Jacobs becomes Senate minority leader

* Updated with statements after the jump.

Sen. Nancy Jacobs has been elected the Senate's new minority leader -- a surprising turn of events given that just weeks ago she was voted out of her position as minority whip.

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Jacobs, who represents Cecil and Harford counties, assumes the leadership position immediately. She replaces Sen. Allan H. Kittleman of Howard County, who resigned this week -- also a surprise move -- because his push for civil unions was causing friction within the caucus.

The Senate's 12 Republicans held a meeting this afternoon to choose their new leader, also selecting the Eastern Shore's Sen. E.J. Pipkin as minority whip. Pipkin replaces Sen. David Brinkley, a Frederick County Republican who had been vying for the minority leader position.From a freshly released GOP statement:

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"I am honored and humbled by the support of my colleagues in electing me Minority Leader," said Jacobs. "While there are many difficult issues we need to address during this legislative session, I look forward working with my fellow senators to ensure Maryland's success."

"We have significant budgetary challenges facing us in the 2011 legislative session," Pipkin said, "fortunately I feel that our caucus has a united sense of mission and passion in facing these challenges. I'm ready to get to work."

From Maryland Republican Party Chairman (and former state senator) Alex X. Mooney:

"I want to congratulate newly elected Senate Minority Leader Nancy Jacobs and Senate Minority Whip E.J. Pipkin on their new leadership positions. Senators Jacobs and Pipkin are excellent public servants and I look forward to working with them closely in their new roles. Together, with the new leadership, I am confident we can work diligently toward providing an alternative voice to the calls for tax increases coming from the Democrats in the General Assembly."

Excerpts from Maryland Democratic Party release:

"Maryland Republicans Take Another Hard Right Turn: Maryland's Senate Republicans today affirmed that they are out of touch and out of new ideas by choosing Nancy Jacobs to lead their dwindling State Senate caucus. ... Rather than come together to help move Maryland forward, the elections of Jacobs and E.J. Pipkin personify the Republican establishment's unwillingness to build consensus in Annapolis. Nancy Jacobs is wedded to positions that are far-right, divisive and out of the mainstream."

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