HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – A Democrat in Pennsylvania’s state Senate is switching his registration to become an independent and will caucus with the Republican majority.

Sen. John Yudichak of Luzerne County said Tuesday that registering as an independent is the only way he can faithfully and fully serve the people of his northeastern Pennsylvania district. Yudichak’s departure comes after Democrats picked up six seats in the past year.

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The 49-year-old Yudichak served six terms in the state House and won re-election to a third Senate term last year. He’s occasionally split with Democratic leadership on floor votes and was the party’s chair of the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.

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Republicans hold a 27-seat majority in the 50-seat chamber, with one Republican-leaning district temporarily vacant. With Yudichak as an independent, there will be 21 Democrats.

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