Washington Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas was elected Senate majority leader today when the Republican caucus picked him by a vote of 28 to 25 over Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, Stevens' office announced.
Dole, who has chaired the Senate Finance Committee, was the party's 1976 vice presidential nominee and is considered a potential presidential candidate in 1988.
He will succeed retiring Senate Majority Leader Howard H. Baker Jr. of Tennessee.
Dole defeated Stevens, assistant GOP leader for the last eight years, by a vote of 28-25 after the two tied 20-20 in the third of a series of four secret ballots in a closed party caucus, Barbara Smyser, Stevens' press secretary, said.
Senate officials announced that Sen. Alan K. Simpson of Wyoming had been chose to replace Stevens as assistant majority leader. The vote tally was not announced.
The Democratic leader, Sen. Robert C. Byrd, congratulated Dole on his victory and said in a statement, "I know from experience the task before him can be both demanding and rewarding."
Byrd was majority leader before the Republicans took control of the Senate after the 1980 election.
Dole will give up the chairmanship of the Finance Committee to become majority leader. Sen. Bob Packwood of Oregon is in line to succeed him under the Senate's seniority system.
Stevens' defeat means that he will have no position in the Senate leadership.
The other candidates -- Sen. James A. McClure of Idaho, Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico and Richard Lugar of Indiana -- were eliminated in that order.
On the third ballot, Lugar trailed Dole and Stevens with 13 votes.
Tom Griscom, press secretary to retiring Majority Leader Howard H. Baker Jr. of Tennessee, said Dole received 14 votes in the first round of voting by the 53 GOP senators and senators-elect.
Stevens was second with 12 votes, followed by Lugar with 10 and Domenici of New Mexico with nine.
McClure had eight votes and was eliminated under a procedure that calls for the low candidate on each ballot to drop out.
On the next ballot, it was Dole 17, Stevens 14, Lugar 12 and Domenici 10, eliminating Domenici.
Baker and other retiring Senate leaders presided over the meeting.
Outgoing and incoming senators attended, but only the 53 who will be in office when the 99th Congress convenes in January had a vote.
In Kansas, state Republican leaders hailed Dole's election as majority leader as a "tremendous plus" for Kansas.
"It puts Kansas' thinking at the highest level of government," said McDill "Huck" Boyd of Phillipsburg, a longtime member of the Republican National Committee.