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Kansas lawmakers react after Republican caucus votes to oust Sen. Gene Suellentrop as majority leader

Published: Apr. 9, 2021 at 6:32 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The Kansas Republican caucus voted Friday evening to oust Senator Gene Suellentrop as Senate Majority Leader.

Behind closed doors and by secret ballot, the Kansas Republican caucus voted 22-4 Friday evening to remove Gene Suellentrop as Senate Majority Leader.

“It was important because it’s a message and so many people always think that you know because you’re a politician, or you’re in a place of authority, that you’re going to get by with doing something,” Sen. Rick Kloos explained. “We know that lives could’ve been lost through the situation and thankfully we didn’t lose any lives.”

“We have high standards on the values we think we should hold and I think as a party tonight, we showed that were holding accountability to that, that it’s not okay,” Sen. Kristen O’Shea added.

The decision comes a day after court documents provided an officer’s account of Gene Suellentrop’s actions the night he was arrested on charges of drunk driving, driving 90-miles an hour the wrong way on a Topeka highway, and fleeing from law enforcement.

Suellentrop was in the Senate chambers on Friday as they discussed and voted on several bills.

In a Republican caucus Friday morning, Senator Rick Kloos of Topeka made the motion to vote Suellentrop out of his role as Senate Majority Leader.

“I felt that before we went on break, we have plenty of time for the process and after yesterday’s results revelations on the blood alcohol content, it was time to make a decision,” Sen. Kloos explained. “I was waiting honestly for someone else to step forward and it just didn’t seem like it was happening, so I just talk to my colleagues and decided I would make the motion.”

Senate Democratic leader Dinah Sykes said in a statement Friday evening that Suellentrop has been held accountable for his actions in march and it’s unfortunate that he wasn’t self-aware to resign on his own.

Senate President Ty Masterson said Suellentrop was offered the chance to resign his leadership post, but declined, and called the vote a solemn, difficult, yet necessary choice.

“These are just heavy issues. You know we become friends with people in these chambers on both sides of the aisle. So, we build relationships in this chamber so it’s kind of a sad day when you see that.”

Masterson also released a statement after Friday evening’s vote removing Sen. Suellentrop from his role as majority leader, “The decision by the Senate Republican Caucus to not retain Senator Suellentrop as Majority Leader was a solemn, difficult, yet necessary choice. The Senate Majority Leader is a position with significant responsibility.”

“While the caucus would have preferred a resignation, they ultimately felt it was necessary to move forward due to the uncertainty and distraction caused by recent events. The caucus appreciates the continued leadership of Senator Alley as we conclude the people’s business this session,” Sen. Masterson continued.

Senator Brenda Dietrich agreed, “we came to the decision today that we put this off long enough. As difficult as it is, we have more information now and I think we came together as a caucus to make a good decision.”

Masterson says it’s up to Suellentrop’s constituents if they want to vote him out of the Senate, “he is non-retained and we think that’s best left to the people who elected him. They have the ability to recall a vote, right and there are options for them.”

The move against Suellentrop would be the first time in at least several decades a Kansas legislative leader faced an ouster vote before the end of his or her term.

Assistant majority leader Larry Alley will serve as acting majority leader for the rest of this session. On May 26th, 2021, the Senate Republican Caucus will vote to elect a permanent majority leader.

You can read the new information about what led to the arrest of Senator Gene Suellentrop in March for a DUI that led the Senate Republicans to discuss the matter of removing him from his position.

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