Rally outside Statehouse calls on Suellentrop to resign from senate
TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - More than 25 people from across Kansas gathered Monday morning outside the Statehouse as they called for Sen. Gene Suellentrop to resign after he was charged with driving under the influence and other traffic offenses earlier this month in Topeka.
The rally was scheduled from 8 to 9 a.m. on the north side of the Statehouse, near the 300 block of S.W. 8th Avenue.
Organizers of Monday’s rally said they used social media to let people know about the rally, which was scheduled over the weekend.
Attendees came from areas including Olathe, Salina, Overland Park, Wichita, Yates Center, Kansas City, Kan., and Topeka.
Among those who came to the event was Julie Dunlap, of Lawrence, who said she was familiar with a vehicle carrying a group of young people returning from a ski trip in Colorado that had to “swerve” to avoid colliding with the vehicle Suellentrop was driving the wrong way on I-70 in downtown Topeka.
“As he was coming down I-70 the wrong way, 90 mph, he nearly ran into a carload of college students from Olathe coming home from a ski trip in Colorado,” Dunlap said. “Their parents are anxiously waiting for them to come home from this trip late at night.
“They see a maniac driving 90 mph the wrong way down the highway and they have to swerve while they’re coming around that dangerous curve to avoid him.”
Dunlap said she and others who came to Monday morning’s rally wanted to draw attention to the incident.
“I hope people notice,” Dunlap said, “and I hope that he resigns. I hope his colleagues think for just a half a second about the impact that this has on the whole state, to have a man who is incapable of following the laws he proposes to make and swears to uphold. It’s not right.”
Also attending the rally was Lesa Patterson-Kinsey, of Prairie Village. She said the rally, which was a grassroots effort that wasn’t sponsored by any particular organization, was designed to raise awareness of the incident.
“This is not the type of representation that we expect,” Patterson-Kinsey said. “We expect our elected to be held to a high standard. And for someone to drive drunk, the wrong way, down our highway and endanger so many people is not acceptable.”
Patterson-Kinsey said she also was hopeful Suellentrop would step down and not detract from “a lot of really important issues” being addressed by the Legislature. She added that Suellentrop is “going to have a court case coming up” related to his recent arrest and “he’s going to need time” to focus on that.
“What we’d like to see is for Sen. Suellentrop to resign from his position,” she said. “And then I hope he can spend time and take care of himself and become healthy. We also are concerned for him, because that is an extreme behavior.”
Suellentrop was released Friday night from the Shawnee County Jail after posting $5,000 bond. He turned himself into jail after Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay filed a criminal complaint and accompanying arrest warrant on Friday afternoon.
Suellentrop was charged with: DUI; reckless driving; felony eluding or attempting to elude police; driving the wrong way on a divided highway; and speeding.
Witnesses say Suellentrop, a Republican from Wichita, was spotted driving the wrong way on Interstate 470 and S.W. Burlingame Road early March 16.
According to the Kansas Highway Patrol, officers spotted him on Interstate 70 near S.W. Gage, and he didn’t stop until he was at S.E. 8th Street in downtown Topeka.
Efforts by WIBW-TV to reach Suellentrop for comment on Monday morning weren’t immediately successful.
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